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Cast Out and Cut Off

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By large-hammer - Posted on 16 January 2003

by Marcus Booker
In practice, Dispensationalism fails to acknowledge that the covenant contains both blessings and curses. Thomas Ice insists that we are yet awaiting the fulfillment of the supposedly unconditional promise made to Israel to be the "head and not the tail." (Deut 28:13) Yet this promise, in its context, is a covenant blessing for obedience. Ice conveniently omits the corresponding curse for disobedience, which is to be the tail in the midst of enemies who are the head (Deut 28:44). In practice, Dispensationalism fails to acknowledge that the covenant contains both blessings and curses. Thomas Ice insists that we are yet awaiting the fulfillment of the supposedly unconditional promise made to Israel to be the "head and not the tail." (Deut 28:13) Yet this promise, in its context, is a covenant blessing for obedience. Ice conveniently omits the corresponding curse for disobedience, which is to be the tail in the midst of enemies who are the head (Deut 28:44). Indeed, God's promises are two-fold. For every blessing, there is a corresponding curse. God sets out a choice between life and death, blessing and the curse. A cursory glance at Deut 28 and Lev 26 will demonstrate this parallel (between blessings and curses). [For more, see also the article, "Dispensationalism Neglects Conditionality of Promises"].

Even in coming up out of Egypt, Israel's status before God stood solely on the basis of God's covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and not upon their own righteousness. Yet even in this early state, God shows his willingness to fulfill his covenant by alternate means; he nearly destroys the nation.

Numbers 32:15 says, "For if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness; and you will destroy all this people." Indeed, God was ready to "abandon" the rebels.

God says to Moses, in Deut 9:14, "Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they." Only Moses' intervention prevents this disaster of being "blotted out."

Also, in Jeremiah God mentions that he had already divorced the northern kingdom (Israel) and threatens to cast out the south (Judah) as well. A divorce is acceptable and justifiable after the covenant is made void by a wife who makes herself into a whore. And such was the condition of Israel and Judah, who "made void the covenant" according to Jeremiah 31.

It is in this context that Jeremiah says, "I will do to the house which is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of E'phraim." The promise was to "cast out," and God cast them out. Indeed, the land "vomitted" them out, according to the covenant curse.

Similarly, 1 Kings 9 reaffirms the covenant promises, saying that if they disobey, "I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and the house which I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight; and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone passing by it will be astonished, and will hiss; and they will say, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?' Then they will say, 'Because they forsook the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the LORD has brought all this evil upon them."

Notice, the text says that God would "cut off" Israel from the land and "cast out" the temple. This same form of curse revisits the disobedient in the first-century. God destroys the people, Jerusalem, the temple as he had also done before the Babylonian captivity. He scatters them anew among the nations. Of course, Christ's casting out is worse than mere physical exile, because it is really exile from the better fatherland in the heavens. The first covenant offered life in the land, age-lasting. Yet the second covenant (in Christ) offered a different sort of everlasting life.

Christ affirms, in John 6:37, that those who come to him will not be "cast out." He says instead that the "ruler of this world" is "cast out." This ruler is the synagogue of Satan, for John says, "They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God (John 16:2)." These men were like zealous Paul, before his conversion; they persecuted the brethren from city to city as Acts especially recounts. Indeed, John had the Pharisees, scribes, Sadduccees, etc. in mind here; they were the rulers, who said "Crucify him!" and "Let his blood be upon us and upon our children (Matt 27:25)." Nevertheless, John affirms that "the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:11)." Also, Paul identifies this wicked brood, saying, "None of the rulers of this age understood this [the secret]; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8)." He also affirms that the "ruler of this age" is doomed to "pass away (v. 6)." See my article called, "Passing Away: The Dissolution of the Covenant" for more background into this passing away language. The condemnation is upon the elders and chief priests, upon both the beast and the false prophet.

It is in this historical context that Christ says to these men, "There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God." Notice, it says that they will be "thrust out" with other people from all over brought in. This is the basic message of many of Jesus' parables.

Moreover, Christ tells them, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it." What a potent promise! Christ says that the Pharisees will be cast out of the kingdom and thrown out in the outer darkness.

This casting out theme surfaces again in Paul's allegory of Sarah and Hagar. The two women, according to Paul, are two covenants. Their respective sons are the children of the old and new covenants (the old and new Jerusalems). Yet Paul affirms this re-applied message from the Scriptures: "cast out the slave woman and her son." His message is that the true inheritance belongs to the son of the free woman.

Along these lines, John the baptist tells the "brood of vipers" that the axe is already at the root of the tree. He speak of them and their perverse generation being cut down by God. In Isaiah 10, the "axe" is a heathen nation; the axe-swinger is God, who judges his people.

Also, Matt 3:10 says the following: "Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

In this account the seed of Abraham from the stones are those who elsewhere are said to come from the north, south, east and west (who enter into the kingdom of God). These are those who are born according to the spirit and the promise (as per Gal 4). The Pharisees, for their part, were born according to the flesh merely.

Of course, further elaboration on this topic is possible. I could mention the accursed fig tree and many other illustrations, but I will instead move on to the continuity of Israel.

The point here is that God's true Israel is the faithful remnant from physical Israel plus the Gentiles who are grafted in. Notice that in Paul's Rom 11 olive tree unfaithful branches are "cut off." These branches are alienated from the national blessings. Yet wild branches (i.e. the Gentiles) are grafted in. Ephesians says that these former strangers to the commonwealth of Israel are now members of the household of God. This is true Israel (i.e. the [true] circumcision), according to Paul. [See also the article, "National Israel Fulfilled in Christ."]

Of course, nobody denies that the Scriptures employ the term "Israel" in different senses. Otherwise, the saying, "not all Israel are Israel" would be a patent contradiction. Israel can mean 1. the person of Jacob, 2. the nation: the physical/inheriting descendents of Jacob (i.e. of #1), 3. the northern kingdom (Israel) as distinct from Judah, 4. the land (country) of Israel (of #2 or #3), 5. the hardened nation, 6. a faithful remnant from #2 and the Gentiles (Christ and his assembly).

It is #5 that is cut off. Yet #6 receives the blessing and is the only Israel that God saves from sin, according to his predetermined plan. A #7 meaning is not to be found in the Scriptures. This #7 is the modern state of Israel (which, by the way, is not equivalent to #2).

Marcus Booker

coderguy's picture

The Abrahamic and other covenants are unconditional (Gen. 15). The Mosaic Covenate as given in Deuteronomy is conditional. These must be harmonized in a non-contradictory way. Preterists do not seem to make these distinctions.

large-hammer's picture

On some level, all covenants are inherently conditional. It is the very nature of a covenant. Covenants are relationship-based (or relationship-forming or relationship-acknowledging). If the relationship fall apart in some way (because of violation of the terms of the covenant relationship), the covenant is void. A covenant, however, strongly binds parties together so that it is no easy or light matter to break the unique union and the special solidarity affirmed as each party publically swore to the covenant oath. So...a covenant is not easily broken. It promotes mercy, compassion, and love between the parties and the overlooking of sins and faults. Yet it is not unconditional, inexhaustible love. Like a union between husband and wife, a wife can persistently disregard her oath, strumpet herself, and rightfully lose the love of her husband. The promises are, at that point (i.e. upon divorce), non-binding. But, I will entertain your idea about unconditionality.

If you are right, what specific Scriptural criteria exists to distinguish between promises that are unconditional and those that are conditional? Tommy Ice, for his part, used the Mosaic covenant ("to be the head and not the tail") as if those blessings were unconditional and in need of contemporary fulfillment. [He may not actually believe that, but he at least created that impression and misused the Scriptures to try to prove his point]. Yet you, for your part, acknowledge the conditionality of the Mosaic covenant.

Yet I will ask again if your criteria came from the Scriptures or if it is arbitrary (based upon your opinions or pre-conceived ideas)? It seems as if the Abrahamic and other covenants with Noah, Adam, and Davidic/Levitical that you mentioned were all ultimately fulfilled in Christ, according to the apostles. Also, these all formed part of one covenant (or you might say two--a shadow and a body). Anyway, the Mosaic covenant was an extension (or development or outgrowth) of the Abrahamic. Abraham was told, "he who is not circumcised has broken my covenant." Circumcision is reaffirmed under the law. Also, the Mosaic covenant elaborates upon specifics concerning the promises made unto Abraham. There would be no reason to enumerate blessings and curses and terms to Abraham personally. Yet the law lays out conditions (for the recipients of the promise).

But as far as carnal promises are concerned, the promises to Abraham and to his seed (i.e. Jacob's race) were not unconditional (as history makes evident). The promise stated that they would possess the land forever. Nevertheless, God Himself kicks them out of the land. It's much like God's promise to Eli (which was for him and his sons "forever" according to the Scriptures). Yet God relents concerning this promise based on disobedience. He says, "I will honor he who honors me, and who dishonors me will be lightly esteemed." So...the word "forever" does not grammatically denote what you claim; it does not indicate unconditionality. In the context of promises, it is always undertood as conditional. It means "forever if upheld by God," yet God cannot deny himself, punishes violators, and relents if need be. The same is true of the word "never" as I mentioned in the article.

Incidentally, have you read my article, "Dispensationalism Neglects Conditionality of Promises." I can't remember if I mentioned this article before to you. It addresses many of these questions.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Marcus Booker

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