Jews, Gentiles & the Church
By David Larsen
: Discovery House
Reviewed by Dr. Trevor Craigen
7.2 (Fall 1996) : 273-276
How refreshing to read a book which unashamedly presents Israel as having a place in God's plan and purpose for the ages, doing so with a nice blend of examining Scripture and surveying history. Larsen has produced a work deluged with Scripture references and studded with facts, names, places, and dates. He laces his work with incredibly diverse bibliographic information, and spices it with comments well worth remembering from different authors, diplomats, and politicians. One cannot help but exclaim over and over again, "Good stuff!" In chapters dealing with history, a listing of one or more appropriate Scripture references opens each chapter and sub-section to keep readers from forgetting the Scriptural footing. An opening section entitled "The Scriptural Footings" (chaps. 1-3) and a closing section called "The Prophetical Future" (chaps. 13-18) bracket "The Historical Flow" (chaps. 4-7) and "The Sequential Facts" (chap. 8-12), reminding the reader that what has happened in history and is happening today is not without biblical warrant.
Undoubtedly his book resulted from much thinking and research for which, in his words, "a life-long interest in and love for the Jewish people" (11) were the motivation. A fascination with the course of Jewish history and with the explosive growth of the Jewish State in Israel brought forth what he calls "a modest contribution to the contemporary debate and discussion among evangelical Christians on many issues related to Israel and the Jews" (11). The work is far more than a modest contribution; it is rather a significantly important masterpiece that this reviewer hopes will become "must reading" for everyone in seminaries, colleges, and local churches. In the very least, pastors ought to read and assimilate and perhaps plan a series of studies or sermons on the hope of Israel, on the return of and ultimate restoration of Israel to her divinely granted land. Even a fast reading will fill the mind with so much information and in particular with so much Scripture that one could only conclude that leaving Israel out of the divine plan and replacing her with the church is wrong. To take it further and put it quite bluntly, to summarily dismiss a millennial kingdom is dreadfully shortsighted, prophetically abusive, and eisegetical.
The wealth of information, the pertinent comments, questions, and evaluations on this subject of Israel and the church and on the abundant detail in God's revealed promises and prophecies may cause one to wonder whether amillennialism, postmillennialism, or any other system or worldview embracing "replacement/displacement theology" is guilty of leaning toward anti-Semitism. Advocates of such systems would, of course, vigorously deny that label, but reflecting upon Romans 11 (52) raises the question of whether they fall under God's charge of arrogance, conceit, and self-esteemed wisdom. Larsen reminds the reader that the future of Israel taught so clearly in Scripture forbids her being submerged into "an amorphous ideal people of God or the church" (200). He notes that divine prophecies cannot apply in spiritual fulfillment to the church. He pulls no punches when citing H. L. Ellison on Ezekiel 36–37: "Unless . . . [expositors] can give full weight both to the transformed land of Israel in Ezekiel 36 and to the national resurrection of Israel in chapter 37, . . . [they have] no right to banish the Israel of the Old Covenant from the picture in favor of the Church" (190). Well said!
How encouraging to be reminded of many different men of the past who accepted without apology and hesitation the clear promises of God about His people in the future. How enthralling to observe the providential bringing into existence of the State of Israel—the right men with the right attitudes stirred by the revelation of God in His Word were there at the right time both inside and outside of Palestine. How troubling to read of centuries-long, worldwide anti-Semitic hatred, and, yes, of Jewish brutality, disregard, and hatred for the Arab, and to realize that Arab and Jew face each other in an irrepressible conflict that perhaps will not resolve itself short of the Messiah bringing in His kingdom. Larsen's love for Israel is not blind to her faults. He neither condemns the Arab out of hand nor applauds Israel without criticism.
How saddening to ponder the incredible savagery and atrocity of the Holocaust, as well as the shameful treatment of budding Israel by the British army so soon after having fought to free them and many others from the Third Reich's willfully iniquitous and "Assyrian-like" pernicious domination.
How encouraging to be reminded that Bible students, both preand post-Reformation, held to a millennium. What a surprise to discover that before A.D. 1649 over eighty books on the subject of Christ's millennial reign were available in published form. What a surprise to discover just who it was who acknowledged that Scripture clearly promised the return of Israel to the land of her fathers (e.g., Owen, Mather, Simeon, M'Cheyne, Bonar, Ryle, Spurgeon, and Girdlestone, to name a few). Historian Ernest Sandeen accused England of having been drunk with millennialism in the nineteenth century (129), a far cry from the church's teaching in modern England that no longer takes seriously God's written promises and prophecies. The author's evaluation of the negative impact of Augustine's "facile equation of the church and the kingdom" is quite correct. Augustine's teaching did much disservice to the proper, biblical understanding of the millennial reign of Christ for many, many years after his death and right up to modern amillennialism (116, 122-23).
How enlightening to read Larsen's concise but most informative survey of Islam and her resistance and opposition to Israel and of militant Islam's pathological hatred of the Jew (153-68). Without reference to what God said in Scripture, one cannot clearly understand the past history of the conflict, and without God's prophetic Word a person cannot accurately estimate the future history of Arab and Jew alike (see 164-68,"The Outcome for Islam").
How satisfying to benefit from a well-written quick summary (chaps. 13-17) of the church age, of end-time events and personages in the tribulation—including the rebuilding of the Temple—of the conversion of Israel, and of the coming of the kingdom.
How challenging to read the final chapter, "Our Faithful God and the Responsibility of the Church," where Larsen gives an invitation to justice, to hopefulness, to vigilance, to witness, and to readiness (325-36). The church should concern herself about justice for all. The church's preaching and teaching on premillennialism is a position that pulsates with hopefulness—the sovereign God will bring to fulfillment all His promises to Israel. The church must be vigilant and take a public stand against all forms of anti-Semitism, and should show concern about media inaccuracy in reporting from the Middle- East. The church must witness lovingly, graciously, and prayerfully to the Jew too. She should be ready always for her upward call, the rapture of the saints, especially in view of the "constellation of signs of the approaching end of the age, particularly in relation to Israel" (335).
Buy, read, think, and let the incongruity of affirming the inerrancy of God's special revelation while disclaiming a place for Israel challenge both mind and heart.