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A Tale of Three Brothers: Adoption Theology
by Michael Bugg
In our article The Major Prophetic Systems, we saw that the various views on Biblical prophecy can be broken down into four distinct systems. This article will attempt to explain our approach to Israelogy in greater detail and in the form of a parable.
Imagine that man had two sons through his wife; we'll call them Jacob and Joseph. The boys go through that rebellious phase in their late teens, straining the relationship, but the father continually expresses his love and fidelity to both sons even when he has to punish them severely.
One day, Joseph brings home a friend named Luke who has no home of his own, and the father agrees to adopt him with no preconditions but that Luke agree to the adoption. This so angers Jacob that he and the father get into a huge fight, and Jacob leaves the house. Nevertheless, while he adds Luke to his will with the full rights of a son, the father also keeps Jacob in his will, and makes it clear that he will never remove him from said will--in fact, he promises that one day he will bring Jacob home.
Dispensationalism, or Separation Theology, argues that Luke's adoption doesn't really make him a brother to Joseph and Jacob and that he isn't in the same will as his brothers.
Supercessionism, or Replacement Theology, says that the Father replaced Jacob with Luke, and that Jacob no longer has a place in the Father's will.
Both tend to ignore the existence of Joseph, the remnant of Jews who love Yeshua as Lord and Savior, but who have not divorced themselves from the Jewish community nor ceased to keep the Torah. In fact, both are guilty of trying to put Joseph under Luke, when in truth it was Joseph who invited Luke home. Indeed, there has been a peculiar resentment of Joseph by Luke, to the point where the Christian Church tried to outlaw Joseph’s existence and forcibly assimilate those Jews who came to believe in Yeshua out of the Jewish people.
Olive Tree Theology (a term coined by David Stern in Messianic Judaism (formerly the Messianic Jewish Manifesto)) says that all three sons--traditional Jews, Messianic Jews, and grafted-in Gentiles--are in the same will, and that the Father's ultimate goal is to bring the sons back together under one household in peace. Therefore, while Remnant Theology is correct about the relationship of Israel and the Ekklesia as we currently see it, in the end, not only the remnant but all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:29ff).
This approach is the only way to reconcile certain passages of Scripture. On the one hand, it is clear that Gentiles who enter the service of the King of Israel become full citizens of that nation (Eph. 2:12f). On the other hand, Replacement Theology has no answer to the promise of Rom. 11:26, that “all Israel will be saved.” Attempts to say that “all Israel” means the Church are nonsense, since Paul very specifically identifies who this “all Israel” is:
Trying to say that "all Israel" means only the Church as it currently consists creates a mass of insoluble problems and contradictions: Were the Gentiles Paul's blood-relations? In what way is the Gentile Church hardened in part? And why is the Church the enemy of the Gospel?
The picture of this expanded Israel is beautifully rendered by Isaiah 19:22-25:
The LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing. They will return to the LORD, and he will be entreated by them, and will heal them. In that day there will be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day, Israel will be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; because the LORD of Hosts has blessed them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”
In addition to seeing the inclusion of the Gentiles in terms of adoption, Isaiah allows us to see it in terms of annexation; not the violent annexation of the sword, but a peaceful surrender by the nations to the King of Israel. Israel remains the core of the worldwide kingdom, but Assyria and Egypt, representing all the Gentile nations, become adopted states, their citizens being given the full rights of citizens on God’s Kingdom—and yet, Israel retains a special position and promise, being the place where God sets up His Throne, the people with whom the Sh’khinah, the Visible Presence of the Holy One, dwells in a special way.
When one realizes that Gentile Christians are adopted into the household of Israel without replacing the currently non-Messianic Jewish people nor having to give up their own identity, it reveals not only a solution to many otherwise intractable prophetic problems, but it also presents a fresh perspective on Jewish-Christian relationships: For one who is truly in Messiah, every Jew you meet is a brother or a sister, whether they recognize you as brethren in return. An attack on the Jews is an attack on the family, and we need to stand up and defend our family.
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