Not the Answer on
Israel in Prophecy
Rev Angus Stewart
to Be Gathered
J. C. Ryle
Great Britain: Sovereign Grace
Advent Testimony, n.d.
This is an
attractively produced booklet of a speech by J. C. Ryle, the
nineteenth-century evangelical bishop of Liverpool,
advocating premillennialism: a physical return of the Jews
to Palestine and their subsequent mass conversion, followed
by Christ's first second coming, a Jewish millennium and the
Lord's second second coming.
and foundational point is that Israel in the Bible has only
three senses: Isaac's son, the twelve tribes and the N.
Kingdom (pp. 5-6). Thus he disagrees with the Reformed page
headings in the Authorized Version (p. 10) which understand
the prophets to speak of the salvation of Christ's New
Testament church of elect, believing Jews and Gentiles (I
Christ is called "Israel" in Isaiah 49:3, and a true
Israelite is not merely one who is of Jewish bloodstock but
one who is ingrafted into Him by a living faith (Ps. 73:1;
125:5; John 1:47; Rom. 9:6), for only such is a prince with
God, which is what Israel means (Gen. 32:28). The new
covenant with "Israel" and "Judah" (Jer. 31:31-34) is made
with all ethnic Jews and Gentiles for whose sins Christ died
on the cross, for the new covenant in His blood is signified
and sealed in the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:20). Noble epithets
given to Israel in the Old Testament are ascribed by God to
Christ's church gathered out of all nations: "a chosen
generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar
people" (I Peter 2:9).
Christ is the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16), and Jewish and
Gentile believers in Him are the seed and children of
Abraham for it is not merely a matter of blood (Gal.
3:26-29; 4:28; Rom. 9:7-8; John 8:33-44; Matt. 3:9). Bible
believers should also consider how the apostle Paul
identifies a Jew (Rom. 2:28-29) and the circumcision (Rom.
2:25-29; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:11).
promise to Abraham and his seed is a promise of our heavenly
world, country and city (Rom. 4:13; Heb. 11:9-16). The
Jerusalem and Mt. Zion to which the believer goes in the
pilgrimage of believing prayer and worship is above in
heaven (John 4:21-24; Gal. 4:26-27; Heb. 12:22), where is
our citizenship (Phil. 3:20), for there Christ sits on
David's throne whence He sheds forth the Spirit (Acts
2:29-36). The physical, Old Testament temple foreshadows
God's dwelling in Christ through the incarnation and so His
dwelling in His universal church by the Holy Spirit (John
1:14; 2:19-21; I Cor. 3:16-17; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20-22).
ten passages from the Old Testament prophets (pp. 19-23),
interpreting them with the literalist hermeneutic. But two
of them, Amos 9 and Hosea 1, are quoted by James, Paul and
Peter as proof of the calling of Gentiles into full
salvation in Christ as members of His church (Acts 15:13-18;
Rom. 9:24-26; I Peter 2:10). "And to this," declares James
in Acts 15:15, "agree the words of the prophets [plural]."
premillennial literalism, the Reformed have always taught
Scripture interprets Scripture and the New Testament
interprets the Old Testament. The Second Helvetic
Confession (1566) is representative of the Reformed
rejection of premillennialism: "We further condemn Jewish
dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the
Day of Judgment" (ch. 11).
There is much
that is helpful, comforting and quotable in Ryle's writings,
including his Expository Thoughts on the four gospel
accounts (his treatment of Luke has been of great benefit in
our family devotions),
Practical Religion and
on the prophets and the last times, one should read Calvin,
C. F. Keil, Lenski, W. J. Grier, Herman Hoeksema, William
Hendriksen, Robert L. Reymond, David Engelsma, O. Palmer
Robertson, etc., or check out our on-line topical resources
pages on Israel