Objection: Israel Will Remain God’s People As Long As Creation Exists!
Don K. Preston
Those who oppose Covenant Eschatology are constantly seeking to find arguments, any argument!, that will nullify the force of true preterism. Just recently, the following objection was lodged.
“Jeremiah writes, “Thus says the LORD, Who give the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): ‘If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever'” (Jer 31:35-36). In light of this passage, how can Preterists claim that God is through with national Israel? Since the sun and moon are still lighting the sky, Israel must still be a nation before God.”
As with many objections to Covenant Eschatology, this initially sounds good, until one looks closer. It is then revealed that there are inherent inconsistencies in the objection. Let’s take a closer look.
It must be noted that even the most staunch millennialists believes that one of these days– at the end of the millennium– the ordinances of the sun, moon and stars will be literally broken! It is believed that at the end of the millennium the literal cosmos is either completely annihilated, or, is refurbished after first being destroyed. So, if in fact Israel can cease from being God’s people when the sun, moon and stars are destroyed, then Israel can cease being God’s people at the end of the millennium!
It must also be noted that scripture does affirm, in the clearest terms, that Israel would be destroyed when “heaven and earth” would be destroyed.
Psalms 102:25f, cited in Hebrews 1 to speak of the passing of the Old Covenant world, foretold the “growing old” and the passing of the “heavens and earth.” This text is problematic for the objection above. The creation would pass when “a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (v. 18). This would be the time of the redemption of Zion (21) when “the children of Your servants will continue” (v. 28). So, on the one hand, we have the redemption of Jerusalem, but on the other hand we find the creation of a new people!
How can the Psalmist affirm both the continuance of the seed of Israel and the creation of a new people at the same time? Simply stated the Old Covenant people would pass, but a New Covenant people with a new name would be created. We must understand this within the context of the definition of the true seed of Abraham as established by Paul in Galatians 3-4– the true seed of Abraham is of faith, not flesh. (See my Who Is This Babylon? for a discussion of the Two Jerusalems. This means that one city would perish after / when she had served her purpose, and would give way to the heavenly, spiritual Jerusalem). The indisputable fact is that in Psalms, we find the affirmation of the destruction of “heaven and earth” as well as the creation of a new people. It is critical to understand that the millennial paradigm has no place for what the Psalmist describes.
In Isaiah 65, YHVH predicted that He would slay Old Covenant Israel- and create “A New Heavens and a New Earth,” for the former– the former heavens and earth!– would not be remembered (Isaiah 65:13-19)! Note that word “remembered.”
So, YHVH said that the Old Creation would pass away, and: “The Lord God will slay you” (v. 13f)! Thus, scripture explicitly combines the destruction of Old Covenant Israel at the time the New Creation arrives.
We must note also that the Old Creation of Isaiah 65 is a covenant creation. YHVH said that at the creation of the New World, “the former (the former heaven and earth, DKP) shall not be remembered” (v. 17). The word “remembered” is loaded with covenantal significance. It is not simple mental recall. It means to bring to mind within the context of covenant (cf. Exodus 2:24; 6:5; Numbers 10:9, Jeremiah 3:16, etc)! This means that the first “heaven and earth” of Isaiah 65 was a covenantal creation! It was Israel’s covenantal world. This has nothing to do with the creation of better rocks and trees, or of bugs and slugs becoming the “sons of God.”
Millennialists claim that Isaiah 65 describes life in the millennium. But, this demands that God will slay Israel when He introduces the millennium! The description of life in Isaiah 65 follows the destruction of Israel. What must not be missed is that the New Creation comes when a New People, with a New Name is created. The very thing that the objection above denies is affirmed by Isaiah. Thus, Isaiah alone falsifies the objection.
Daniel 12:1-3 emphatically says that the time of the end, the kingdom, etc. would come– “When the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (Daniel 12:7). The “power of the holy people” was her covenant relationship with YHVH. Thus, Old Covenant Israel would indeed be “shattered at the very time that millennialism says she would be restored!
Note now Matthew 5:18. Jesus: “Until heaven and earth passes, not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until it is all fulfilled.” This text creates a huge dilemma for the objection above.
All millennialists insist that Torah has been removed. But Jesus said“heaven and earth” had to pass for Torah to pass! The very thing that the objection denies is affirmed by Jesus, and he posits the passing of that “heaven and earth” at the time of the fulfillment of the Old Law!
When did Jesus say that all of the OT would be fulfilled? Read Luke 21:22. In describing the fall of Jerusalem, our Lord said: “These be the days of vengeance in which all things that are written must be fulfilled.”
We thus have in scripture the affirmation of the following:
The passing of the “heaven and earth.”
The passing of heaven and earth at the time of the creation of a new covenantal people.
The passing of heaven and earth when Old Covenant Israel would be completely shattered.
The passing of heaven and earth when the Old Covenant was completely fulfilled.
The complete fulfillment in AD 70.
The problem with the objection under consideration is that it interprets the language of scripture from a modern cosmological perspective while ignoring the Hebraic world-view, and how the language of scripture is the language of covenant. To insist that language must be taken in some woodenly literal manner, divorced from its ancient historical context is misguided.
It is clear just from the four passages cited that scripture affirms the very thing that the objection seeks to deny. To reiterate, scripture affirms the passing of Old Covenant Israel as God’s chosen physical seed. This would be at the destruction of Israel’s covenant world. It would be when God created a new people with a new name, all of which implies that it would be at the establishment of the New Covenant.
Israel was God’s chosen people, chosen by grace (not race) to accomplish His plan. He promised that He would never forsake them, until He had accomplished those promises (cf. Genesis 28:15f). Israel served as a shadow of “better things to come” and when those better things arrived, that Old Covenant, natural and temporary relationship was supposed to pass. This was God’s original purpose. God’s promises to Israel did not fail. Israel did fail to comprehend the temporary nature of her covenant and her world, but this does not mean that God’s purposes and promises failed.
Just as promised, YHVH fulfilled all of His promises. Israel’s “heaven and earth” passed away, and Israel as an exclusive, chosen people likewise passed. God created a new people with a new name, and a new heaven and new earth. The seed of A
braham inherited this New Creation and will never pass away, just as promised!
So, the objection given above has no merit. True preterism is confirmed as Covenant Eschatology, fulfilled in Christ.