The Olive Tree Anti-Semitism and Bible Prophecy

 

THE OLIVE TREE, ANTI-SEMITISM AND BIBLE PROPHECY

imagesDr. Thomas S. McCall

At a convention of the Pre-Trib Study Group in Dallas, Dr. John Walvoord presented a paper on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and Premillennial teaching, including the history of doctrines throughout the Church age.  I was very much struck by something that Dr. Walvoord said as he analyzed the transition from widely held pre-millennial views of the early church in the first three centuries to the predominantly amillennial, postmillennial or anti-millennial views that developed afterwards, and it centered around Augustine.

Latent Anti-Semitism Caused Amillennialism

I appreciated especially what Dr. Walvoord said, as quoted from the audio tape of his message, in his analysis of what happened in the case of Augustine:

“Augustine arbitrarily made the millennium non-literal, while everything else was literal.  Now as far as I’ve been able to find out, there has never been a book on doctrine that explains this.  But there is possibly an explanation.  In the first two centuries the church was largely Jewish in its background.  They were the evangelists, and they were the apostles.  But as the gospel grew, the church became largely Gentile.  And, of course the millennium is a time when the Jews are prominent, and it could be that there is a latent anti-Semitism here that they were quite unconscious of, that made them question whether Israel is going to have a literal future like it says.  And that, of course, would lead to a non-literal millennial kingdom.   In any case, that’s what happened, and the Roman Catholic Church became amillennial, and the Protestant Reformers like Calvin, Luther and others went back to Augustine rather than to the Bible, and adopted amillennialism.  They brought in, though, a lot of other things that were important, like “every man a priest” and “interpret the Bible yourself,” and so on, very important doctrines that have been the bulwark of Protestantism.  But, it wasn’t until the 19th and 20th Centuries when the Bible Conference movement began, and people began to ask what does the Scripture actually say?  It was not until then that premillennialism became a prominent feature in the church–as it is today in some churches, at least.  And that’s the background.  So we have to understand there’s a long history of this, and we are a minority.  We believe the Bible is literally true and they don’t, and we believe we have the facts on our side.  That’s why we believe what we believe.”

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

 

Thus Dr. Walvoord said it was his impression that it was latent anti-Semitism that caused Augustine and those around him to have this transition in their thinking.  That’s a remarkable statement.   How in the world can latent anti-Semitism have anything to do with one’s eschatological viewpoint, and how can it impact the eschatological viewpoint of the whole church?  Well, I think that it does, and that’s one of the things we are going to be looking at in this article.

There is an inherent connection between one’s attitude toward the Jewish people and Israel and one’s attitude toward the Scriptures and eschatology.   How does that happen?   It’s an understanding of what the Scriptures teach about the nature of the church, the nature of Israel, and the nature of the Olive Tree.  As Dr. Walvoord brought out, at the time of the beginning of the Bible Conference movement, there was a rediscovery of Israel and the promises to Israel in the Scriptures.  Some of the early works published in this movement had to deal with the future of Israel, as scholars began to rediscover premillennialism and literal eschatology.  Of course many of the amillennialists, including Augustine, would have been shocked if someone were to say they were anti-Semitic, and they would deny it strenuously.  And they would say, why, there’s not an anti-Semitic bone in my body!  All we want to do (they might say) is to take away the promises that God has given to Israel and apply them to the church!  Well, that sounds pretty anti-Semitic to me.

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The Lord Uses Israel to Protect Israel

 

The Lord Always Restores Israel

Painting by Sharlene Lindskog-Osorio

Painting by Sharlene Lindskog-Osorio

Zechariah 9:12

12Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope: even to-day do I declare that I will render double unto thee (ASV 1901).

The prisoners of Zion are going to be rescued by God Himself and He will provide them with a double blessing. As promised in verse eleven “because of the blood of thy covenant I have set free thy prisoners from the pit wherein is no water.” Now God tells the Jews to turn to their stronghold (levetsahron), which is Him. This Hebrew word levetsahron, translated as stronghold is found only here in the entire Old Testament. It can mean citadel or place of safety. Some have taken this to refer to Jerusalem. It is better directed to the only one who is our only true stronghold, the Messiah. It is best to view Him here as the entire ninth chapter has been discussing His first and second advents. God Himself is referenced as the safe hiding place and defense of His people in other sections of Scripture (Joel 3:16). The third chapter of Joel uses a different Hebrew word for stronghold, which is oomahoz, but the conveyance of God protecting Israel is the same. He has blessed them and provided them with many covenants to certify His promises to bless them. In the Hebrew text the word hope is actually “The Hope.” The definite article personifies this hope and adds certainty to the observation that this refers to God in Christ the Messiah. Zechariah speaks about, this special hope of Israel, “the hope which offered them a future through all the years of expectation.” For most of the Jews this will not be fully realized until He appears again to establish His righteous rule on the earth.

The same hope is carried over to the New Testament as Paul speaks of it as “the hope of Israel,” for which the Jews of Rome caused him to be bound as a prisoner (Acts 28: 20). He also referenced this hope when he said in his defense before Agrippa: “I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers, unto which promise our twelve tribes earnestly serving God night and day hope to attain. And concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O King” (Acts 26:6-7). Paul also spoke of “the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), for then the hope of the Church, and Israel, and the world, will be fully realized.

The double blessing mentioned in this verse references Exodus 4:22 and Deuteronomy 21:15-17. In the Exodus passage wherein God is commanding Moses saying, “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, my first-born:” Jehovah God is saying that Israel is the “First Born” of all the nations. The Deuteronomy passage presents some important aspects of the First Born status.

Jacob Blessing Joseph's Sons by Rembrandt Cir 1656

Jacob Blessing Joseph’s Sons by Rembrandt Cir 1656

The double portion of the First Born is clearly stated in this passage. There is however a situation of forfeiture of the First Born status. Personal unfitness or transgression could cause the forfeiture of this coveted status. The Exodus passage shows that in a spiritual sense, God considered the nation of Israel as His firstborn among all nations. Jacob whose name was changed to Israel was not the firstborn son of his parents Isaac and Rebecca. He was born second, because his brother Esau emerged first from the womb. Nonetheless, though he was the younger, Israel still received the blessing of the firstborn. Esau despised the First Born (Genesis 25:34) status and sold it to his brother Jacob for a meal. Therefore Jacob/Israel became the First Born spiritual nation on the earth. Other instances of this forfeiture of the First Born status are in Scripture.15If a man have two wives, the one beloved, and the other hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the first-born son be hers that was hated; 16then it shall be, in the day that he causeth his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved the first-born before the son of the hated, who is the first-born: 17but he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the hated, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath; for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the first-born is his (ASV 1901).

Jacob’s own firstborn son Reuben lost his rights to the First Born son status. From his deathbed Jacob gave each of his twelve sons as well as Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh a forecast of what their tribes would become.  Jacob prophesied over Reuben:

Genesis 49:3-4

 3Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength; The pre-eminence of dignity, and the pre-eminence of power. 4Boiling over as water, thou shalt not have the pre-eminence; Because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; Then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch (ASV 1901).

Israel then divided up the blessings of the First Born status to two of his sons. Judah got the spiritual blessings, as the Messiah would come through his line. Joseph got the physical blessings as Israel blessed his two sons. The Lord Jesus stated this principle, But many shall be last that are first; and first that are last (Matthew 19:30). Here He was referencing the Jews who would be rejected during the Church Age but in the Millennial Kingdom would be running the world’s government along with King Jesus who will rule all from David’s Throne in Jerusalem. Moses prophesied this quite clearly to the Jews.

Deuteronomy 28:13

And Jehovah will make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if thou shalt hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them (ASV 1901).

The dispensing of a double inheritance and punishment is also given in two other passages. In these passages Israel as God’s First Born among the nation had a corresponding responsibility of obedience to God’s Law. If Israel did not realize the blessing due to disobedience they would be doubly punished. Several passages affirm this.

Isaiah 40:2

2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah’s hand double for all her sins (ASV 1901).

Jeremiah 16:18

18And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable things, and have filled mine inheritance with their abominations (ASV 1901).

As the serious Bible student notices, Israel’s sorrows and sufferings surpass that of all the rest of mankind. But Israel’s disobedience and consequent sufferings will not last forever. In the diaspora they were, “prisoners of the hope,” and when restored to their land and brought back into favor as God’s “first­born” among the nations, then as He told the Jews through Isaiah:

Isaiah 61:7-9

7Instead of your shame ye shall have double; and instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be unto them. 8For I, Jehovah, love justice, I hate robbery with iniquity; and I will give them their recompense in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9And their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which Jehovah hath blessed (ASV 1901).

The Victorious Road to the Messianic Kingdom

Zechariah 9:13-15

13For I have bent Judah for me, I have filled the bow with Ephraim; and I will stir up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and will make thee as the sword of a mighty man. 14And Jehovah shall be seen over them; and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah will blow the trumpet, and will go with whirlwinds of the south. 15Jehovah of hosts will defend them; and they shall devour, and shall tread down the sling-stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, like the corners of the altar (ASV 1901).

Zechariah now receives assurance that not only will their double chastisement not last forever but also He will use them to personally defeat their enemies. The example used here in Judah the southern kingdom metaphorically representing a military bow and the northern kingdom Ephraim metaphorically representing a missile to be projected from the bow. The actual force provided to the arrow will be God as He says, And Jehovah shall be seen over them; and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning;” So in essence God Himself is the warrior using Judah and Ephraim as the armaments!  This section of Scripture chronologically depicts the persecutions of the Greeks against the Jews and their eventual victory over them by the Jewish Maccabees. Previously He turned Alexander away from Jerusalem by divine intervention. He will allow the Jews to be victorious over one of Alexander’s successors Antiochus Epiphanies IV in the war of 175-163 B.C. Jehovah God will be seen over the Jews and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah will blow the trumpet, and will go with whirlwinds of the south. He will hover over them as a storm with the arrows leaving the bows as lightning quickly leaves the center of a storm to reach its target. The Greeks had dominated the Jews on a number of occasions for which the Lord will get His vengeance as described here.

 

Isaac asks Esau to hunt for venison by Bertram of Minden cir. 1383

Isaac asks Esau to hunt for venison by Bertram of Minden cir. 1383

The book of Joel references a time before the Babylonian captivity when the Phoenicians delivered Jews to the Greeks to be used as slaves. The following paragraph excerpted from the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties explains this.

Joel 3:6 reads: “You [Phoenicians and Philistines] sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks [Yewanim] in order to remove them far from their territory” (NASB). The very wording of this verse precludes dating the composition of Joel at any time subsequent to the conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great. The Greeks are referred to here as a people living “far from the territory” of Judah, and probably also far from the territory of the Phoenician and Philistine slave-raiders themselves, who swooped down on defenseless Judean towns in order to sell the captives on slave markets very far from Canaanite territory.

 From Gleason Archer’s Bible Difficulties.

 The Greeks already came to public notice, of course, after the collapse of Xerxes’ attempted conquest of Greece in 480–479 B.C. But Greek coins are found in Palestinian hoards from as early as the late sixth-century issues of Peisistratus. Greek mercenaries or adventurers served in the court and army of the Babylonians as early as the Lesbian poet Alcaeus, who refers to his brother Antimenidas as engaged in such service. Alcaeus’s date was the seventh century B.C. Neo-Babylonian ration tablets published by F. F. Weidner mentioned Ionian carpenters and shipbuilders as recipients of these rations. (Edwin Yamauchi’s Greece and Babylon [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967], p. 33, discusses the Cretan Linear B tablets dating from 1500 B.C., and gives full documentation for all these references, and also includes references to Egypt, Beirut, Tyre and Phoenicia, in general.) In the light of such data as these, it is nothing short of naive to suppose that a late ninth-century Joel could not have known anything about the Greeks, or to imagine that no slave-traders ever went to Greek ports with captives from Near Eastern slave raids.[1]

The Maccabean war is one instance where the Jews miraculously prevailed against the Greeks in spite of the Greeks superior strength. The Greek Antiochus Epiphanies sought to force Greek culture and manners on the Jews. In imposing Hellenism, Epiphanies was following the intentions of Alexander whose dream was to create an empire, not just by the sword but by culture. Because of this Hellenization, the region was speaking Greek by the time of Christ and the New Testament, which was written in Koine Greek and spread quickly.

Massacre of the Innocents by Domenico Ghirlandalo Cir 1486-90

Massacre of the Innocents by Domenico Ghirlandalo Cir 1486-90

By the introduction of Hellenistic cults and non-biblical foods, Epiphanies tried to put an end to the Jewish religious community. The events were the cause of the Maccabean struggle. Severe punitive measures merely brought the matter to a head and the revolt followed. [2]

Women who had had their children circumcised were put to death…with their babies hung round their necks.”
(I Macc. 1:60, 61) As a result of the persecution many Jews hung on to God and His commandments.

Many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.  Very great wrath came upon Israel. (I Maccabees 1:62-64)

In 170 B.C.  A law was announced requiring all citizens to present themselves four times a year to pay formal homage to Antiochus Epiphanies as the senior god of the Seleucids. The day chosen for these periodic submissions was Shabbat, the Jewish day of prayer and they preferred not to leave their homes. Epiphanies was met by a revolt and the setting up of a small state in which the high priest was the central figure. He launched a war of persecution against the Jews soon after that. The Maccabean revolt gained the Jews their independence for a short while. God let the Jews get themselves out of the trouble they brought upon themselves.

The Zechariah prophecy continues chronologically to the time of the end when God will defeat all their enemies, as all nations shall besiege Jerusalem in the final stages of the Campaign of Armageddon. God is using the Greek persecutions as examples for His defeat of Israel’s enemies. For then will God issue the judgments to be inflicted on the world’s armies who shall be gathered against Jerusalem, not only directly by the hand of God, but also by the hand of Israel, who shall then be made strong in Jehovah, so that “the feeble among them shall in that day be as David, and the house of David shall be as God, as the Angel of Jehovah before them” (Zechariah 12:8).

The fifteenth verse illustrates the word of the Psalmist, “Through God we shall do valiantly, for He it is that shall tread down our adversaries (Psalm 60:12) Jehovah of hosts will defend them; and they shall devour, and shall tread down the sling-stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, like the corners of the altar” The devouring (or “eating”) and “drinking” is understood in a figurative sense.



[1] Archer, G. L. (1982). New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (p. 296). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Josephus Translated by William Whiston. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987, 323.

Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.

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Jesus & Zippori A Key to Authenticating The Gospels

Jesus and Zippori

By Dr. Thomas S. McCall

Zippori Photo From Hebrew University

Zippori Photo From Hebrew University

 

One of the more interesting events during our trip to Israel with Zola Levitt Tours in the summer of 2011 was when we visited the Orthodox Kibbutz near the neighboring towns of Nazareth and ancient Zippori (known as Sepphoris to the Romans). The friendly group welcomed our pilgrims and provided our people with dress similar to what was worn in First Century Israel, and a demonstration of how bread was cooked by families in those days.

Zippori is revered by Orthodox Jews as the birthplace of Talmudic Judaism. After the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple and Jews were scattered over the world, Rabbi Judah Hanasi codified the “Oral Law”, which had been passed down verbally from generation to generation, as a kind of extended commentary on the Torah, the five books of Moses. His work was called the Mishnah, the core of the Talmud. He did this work in Zippori around 200 A.D. Because of this, Zippori is a favorite place to visit when the Orthodox Jewish pilgrims come to Israel. However, most Christian groups know nothing about Zippori, and do not visit it.

While our group enjoyed the festivities down the hill, I remained by the main building of the Kibbutz, sitting on a bench. When our excellent Israeli guide, Ilan, came over, I asked him if he knew the story of the connection between Jesus and Zippori. He said no, and wanted to know about it. I mentioned a book that was written a decade ago on the subject. At the time I could not remember the title, but later got the name, JESUS AND THE FORGOTTEN CITY, by Richard Batey.

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Introduction to Israelology

 

WHAT IS ISRAELOLOGY?

Ancient Map of the Temple Mount

This is a recently identified subject within systematic theology as taught in competent seminaries, which recognizes the election of the nation Israel by Yahweh Elohim. When the Hebrew Tanakh is coupled with the eyewitness accounts of the life of the man who claimed to be the Hebrew Messiah YESHUA HAMASHIACH which is called the New Testament it provides a complete picture of the nation Israel, past, present and future. Approximately four fifths of the entire Bible is devoted to the Jews and their story as told by God. In fact every writer of both testaments of the Bible who were chosen by God to give us His oracles was Jewish. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum was the initiator of this component of systematic theology.

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Antichrist Will Mirror Hitler’s Rise to Power and Jewish Persecution

The Antichrist will persecute the Jews on an industrial scale like Adolph Hitler did. 1/3 of the world’s Jewish population died under Hitler. 2/3 will  die under Antichrist’s reign (Zachariah 13:8)

 Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler review SS troops during Reich Party Day ceremonies. (September 1938)

Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler review SS troops during Reich Party Day ceremonies. (September 1938)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many have written about their hatred for the Jews from the time of the Bible. Christ said that they would suffer because they did not recognize Him at the time of His visitation. Corporate Israel refused to recognize Him as their long awaited Messiah.

Luke 19:42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.(NASB)

 Matthew 23: 37-38 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!(NASB)

 Within the militantly intolerant and violent Nazi Third Reich, Jews were considered to be foul, have shameful lives, and were subjected to horrible treatment. The Nazis wanted to first expel them from Germany and then later to subject them to cruel treatment as well as painful death simply because they were Jews. The Nazis used the same despicable kind of language found in Martin Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies when describing them publicly. It also appeared in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Nazi Germany did not invent anything new regarding the treatment of Jews. They simply amplified the anti-Jewish attitude inherent in European Christianity and its history. The constant “question” which rose in Hitler’s party and later in his administration was, what do we do with the Jews? The issue became known as the “Jewish Question.” They attributed the Jews as the source of all economic and social problems. Their answer was found in 1941which became known as the “Final Solution.”

 

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