Sunday, 12 August 2012
The first chapter in my book, "Passion for Israel", in entitled "Puritan Roots" and examines the background for evangelical belief in the promises and plans of G-d for Israel.
The Puritan movement was a movement primarily in England and the American Colonies, which sought to purify the Church. Puritans were concerned with what they perceived to be compromises in Anglicanism: unqualified clergy, a wrong conformity, and a still too Roman Catholic orientation in doctrine and practice ... Puritans in America and England were Calvinists. They had strong views on predestination, on the nature of society, the Law of God and the vocation of all believers ... Puritans were committed to Bible study with accurate exegesis at a level not previously seen in the Church. They believed that progressive revivals would lead to the return of Jesus. Because they took the Bible straightforwardly, they could not gainsay the promises of God to Israel, the Jewish people. The Puritans in general believed in the preservation of the Jewish people and a bright and glorious end to their long journey. This great end would come at the end of time, but required kindness in the present order. Yes, that destiny was seen to culminate when Israel embraced the Messiah Jesus as her own. Some even believed in the regathering of the Jewish people to the Land.
Thomas Brightman was one of the first to write more fully on the themes of Jewish restoration. In his book A Revelation of the Revelation, he argued that the Anti-Christ (identified with Rome) would be overthrown. Then would be seen the calling of the Jewish people who would return to Palestine, restoring their Kingdom. They would embrace Jesus as the Messiah and their kingdom would be restored. "Shall they return to Jerusalem again?", Brightman asks, "There is nothing more certain: the prophets do everywhere confirm it and beat upon it."
Theologian Giles Fletcher followed Brightman in this. Thomas Draxe was another contemporary of Brightman who considered the preservation of the scattered Jewish people as an amazing miracle, which would lead to their regathering and coming to Jesus as the Messiah.
It should be noted that these writers were taking a new and more accurate view of Romans 11. Romans 9-11 gives Paul.s great explanation of the future of Israel and the answer to the great question that if Jesus is the Messiah, why does not Israel believe it? He argues both that it is a result of God.s providence and of Jewish error. However, it is temporary. The hardening has happened in part until the full number of Gentiles will come in. So all Israel would be saved. "Though they are enemies of the Gospel, they are beloved and elect for the sake of the Fathers, for the gifts and call of God (to Israel) are irrevocable." (Rom. 11:26-29) ... Previously many Church theologians had argued that Israel in Romans 11 sometimes referred to spiritual Israel and that "All Israel would be saved" meant that all true Christians would be saved. Those elect were either Gentile Christians or those Jews who believed and became Christians. To the Puritans this exegesis was ludicrous, an attempt to avoid the plain meaning of the text.
Elnathan Parr wrote a brilliant commentary on Romans. In it he takes to task all replacement theologians and shows why Israel and the Jews in Romans 9-11 is none other than the same subject, the Jewish people. His arguments are so well put forth that I am amazed that any would hold to another point of view. So also were the views of Increase Mather in Massachusetts in his Commentary on Romans 9-11. Jonathan Edwards, a century later, would also write in the same way as Parr and Mather.