Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why the Final Party Won't Be in Earthly Jerusalem

Today I preached on Isaiah 17:7-13. The passage looks to the future of Israel, which will suffer greatly by being carried into captivity into Babylon. God tells the Israelites that the captivity is for the purpose of discipline, not judgement. He is seeking to bring them into repentance so that they will smash their idols and experience atonement for their sins.

Then, "on that day" the Lord will travel through Israel from the Euphrates River to the Nile and harvest the Israelites by threshing them (somewhat as olives are harvested from trees) and he will gather Israelites from Egypt and Assyria and they will worship in Jerusalem, on the holy mountain.

I argue that the image of Jerusalem as a destination for the people of God is simply reference to God's people worshiping him on the last day. I don't believe that the passage means that all of the members of God's family will buy a plane ticket to Israel and worship in a "holy land." The focus here is not on the land, the land is a symbol. The focus is on the act of worship.

Here's why:

1)Unless the people of God were a very small company (consider all of the redeemed through history!), they would never fit.
2)The idea that the Gospel goes out over the earth that the kingdom of God would be manifested on earth, and then all of the people move back to Jerusalem seems backward. (Acts 1:8 “…to the remotest part of the earth.”)
3)This attachment to land is a peculiarly OT focus, it seems absent from the NT, even when the “trumpet” sounds. (1 Thess 4:16; and where’s ANY mention of a return to Jerusalem?)
4)The Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation is NEW, not the old one (Rev. 21:2) and everyone agrees it comes at the end, not during a millennial reign.
5)The physical land is linked to a national entity, which has passed as the locus of God’s people, backwards in God’s redemptive plan, a return to OT Judaism which seems against all NT teaching (Gal 2:16; 4:9).
6)Jesus seems to specifically reject the view that the final worshiping place is on a mountain in John 4:21, while explicitly rejected the Samaritan error.
7)The boundaries describes NEVER fully existed and never did. Are we looking at a war which results in an Israel covering Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, half of Iraq and part of Egypt (not that I would mind!).
8)Even Abraham saw the land as symbolic as he looked to a city whose “architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:11).
9)Everything else in the chapter is symbolic:
b.the serpent,
c.the sword,
d.the dragon,
e.the sea,
f.a vineyard,
g.briers and thorns,
h.the burning,
i.taking root,
j.blossoming and sprouting,
l.the fierce east wind,
m.the threshing,
n.destruction of pagan temples [partly],
o.and possibly the calf grazing and women gathering. (15 total)

Notice how much of the passage is symbolic. Many other passages in the Bible should be considered from this view-point, such as Revelation 20. The fact that something is symbolic doesn't mean that it is not true. Symbols make non-literal points about objective realities. When we call Jesus the lamb of God, we're affirming real, concrete, historical reality, but in non literal and symbolic ways.

No comments:

Post a Comment