In the excerpt below from Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views, contributor Robert L. Thomas responds to the Brand-Pratt view on the relationship between Israel and the church referred to as “new covenant theology.”
Part of their [Brand-Pratt] five-part framework in showing why a dichotomy between Israel and the church is artificial and unbiblical is that “the marker of the people is the internal presence of the Holy Spirit.” They seem to ignore certain NT texts that indicate a discontinuity of the Spirit’s indwelling ministry of the people of God after the day of Pentecost. In John 7:39, Jesus said, “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (NASB). John later reported Jesus’ words to indicate the same: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7 NASB). As Jesus promised, his disciples were to receive the Holy Spirit in a new way on the day of Pentecost.
Under a later discussion of the “body of Christ” part of their framework, they deny a “spiritualization of the promises” as they discuss isolated texts in Revelation. Though they deny it, that is exactly what they do in viewing the text through “the lens of new creation and a new eschatological age.” For example, in discussing John’s two visions in Revelation 7, they equate the 144,000 in the first part of the chapter with the innumerable multitude in the last part. They thereby equate their questionable identification of 144,000 Israelites with the church composed of people from every lineage. They unquestionably handle this chapter in a nonliteral fashion. Principles of grammar and facts of history mandate that the innumerable multitude of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds be distinct from the earlier vision in the chapter’s first part. Those in the earlier vision are distinctly of Israelite lineage and differ from those in the latter vision. The Greek expression behind “after these things” in 7:9, at the beginning of the second vision, always indicates a new vision in John’s Apocalypse. Exegetical issues surrounding 7:9 and the latter vision are very complex. The best explanation is to see the two visions as distinct from each other and to locate the timing of the innumerable-crowd vision during the seventieth-week period of the future, not during the present “age of the Spirit” as Brand-Pratt call it.
What is also disappointing about the Brand-Pratt theory is their switch from nonliteral interpretation in some parts of Revelation to some principles that are quite literal when writing about the future millennium. They concur with premillennialists in interpreting parts of Revelation 20 in accord with grammatical-historical principles. They should have followed those principles in interpreting the whole book consistently; instead, they chose to follow eclectic hermeneutics, similar to G. K. Beale. That kind of hermeneutics permits them to interpret literally when it fits their system and allegorically in other places when it does not.
An authority on traditional grammatical-historical principles has written, “Calvin said that the Holy Scripture is not a tennis ball that we may bounce around at will. Rather it is the Word of God whose teachings must be learned by the most impartial and objective study of the text.”
The Brand-Pratt literal rendering of Revelation 20 presents their perspective with another inconsistency, their treatment of Christ’s kingdom reign. At some points they see a present “heavenly kingdom” with Christ currently reigning; at others, they have him reigning in the future, during the millennium. They are not completely clear about when the present kingdom began (at the preaching of John the Baptist or at Pentecost), but they are clear that the future millennial kingdom will begin in conjunction with Christ’s Parousia (i.e., Second Coming) at the millennium’s beginning. Their explanation of how the two kingdoms differ from each other (one with Christ not personally present and the other with him personally present) is missing. The present era of Christian struggles with an adverse world system and the future era of millennial bliss must be different. Does Christ have two kinds of kingdoms?
About the Contributors:
Chad O. Brand has served as a pastor and has taught theology and church history for more than twenty years at three Baptist colleges and seminaries.
Tom Pratt Jr. is president of Eagle Rock Ministries and is a Bible teacher, preacher, and freelance writer.
Robert L. Reymond (1932–2013) was professor of theology emeritus at Knox Theological Seminary.
Robert L. Saucy is distinguished professor of systematic theology at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.
Robert L. Thomas is emeritus professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary.
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