The apostle Paul said, in Galatians 4:22-31,
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid,
the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
The bondwoman in the Genesis story was Hagar, the freewoman was Sarah. The children involved were Ishmael and Isaac, who were both sons of Abraham. Hagar, and her son Ishmael, were cast out of Abraham's house, after Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac.
The implication of Paul's interpretation of the story is missed by dispensationalists. Paul said the bondwoman, Hagar, and not Sarah, represents "Jerusalem which now is." He identified Jews who reject Christ with Hagar, and with Ishmael her son, who were cast out, while those who believe in Christ, Jew and Gentile, are identified with Sarah and Isaac, and the children of the promise. This is what Paul's discussion in Galatians 4 means.
According to Paul, those who practise Judaism, and the Mosaic law, and reject Christ, are not the children of the promise. But, evidently, dispensationalists disagree with Paul. John N. Darby, and defenders of Zionism disagree with Paul, because they apply the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to those who are Jews after the flesh.
In Genesis 32:28, God gave the name "Israel" to Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, and so that name really belongs to "the children of the promise," not "the Jerusalem which now is." In other words, the label "Israel" applies to the church, those who are "in Christ," and its use by the Jewish state is invalid; in Paul's view, the use of it made today would probably be considered a lie, and a fraud. All the promises, Paul said, are "yea" and "Amen" in Christ.
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Dispensationalist writers, following John N. Darby, unwittingly and ignorantly apply the promises of God to those who are identified spiritually with Hagar, the bondwoman. They deny that those promises apply to Christ, and to those who belong to Christ.
IMO, dispensationalism, and dozens of other "isms" fulfil the prophecy of Ezekiel 38. This prophecy describes an invading army coming from various directions, from the northeast, northwest, and the southeast, and the southwest, against the "mountains of Israel," symbolic of the promises and revelations of God, that belong to the saints. And they come against "a land that is brought back from the sword." Ezekiel wrote:
Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
The different directions from which the invaders come, probably represent opposing and contradictory points of view, such as those represented by tens of thousands of sects, cults, and denominations. The prophecy depicts many false teachers coming against the church, having widely differing doctrines.
Why did Ezekiel write that the invading armies of Gog and Magog come against "the land that is brought back from the sword"? What sword is it? A sword was set up to guard the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were expelled from it:
Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
The garden of Eden contained the tree of life, which is also present in the paradise John describes in Revelation 22. The land "brought back from the sword," then, alludes to the garden of Eden; access to it was obtained for us by Christ. The sword is symbolic of God's word. [Ephesians 6:17]
This land represents the inheritance of the saints, their promised "rest," and invisible, spiritual things. The author of Hebrews said, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." [Heb. 11:1]
Just as in Eden, man enjoyed innocence, and fellowship with God, the promised land also represents a land where an entire nation could dwell, in fellowship with God. But, just as Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, eventually, the children of Israel were also expelled from their land.
In the NT, the promises of God were all fulfilled to Christ, and so now, he replaces the land as the place where man may come, to worship God, and have access to the tree of life.
The promises and revelations of God, intended for the saints, are the things that the armies of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel's prophecy come against. In Revelation 20:8-9, John says the hordes of Gog and Magog include people from all parts of the earth, deceived by Satan. They come against "the camp of the saints," and "the beloved city," which is the church.
The prophet Joel mentioned the garden of Eden, in his description of the locust horde. This was the figure under which he pictured the church, in their sojourn in the world, before entering the promised land. The idea of locusts seems to have its origin in the expression of the spies who brought back a report on the land of Canaan; they viewed themselves as "grasshoppers" in comparison to the men of the land. And similarly, Christians in an intermediate state, in the wilderness, picturing confusion, and scarcity of nourishment, are represented by locusts. But before them is the prospect of entering a Garden of Eden, a paradise of plenty, which is also represented by the promised land. These are figures of the "rest" a Christian may find by faith in Christ.
Like Joel, Ezekiel compared the land of promise to the garden of Eden. He wrote:
And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
In Ezekiel 38, the armies of Gog and Magog ride upon horses; they are armed with swords, and bows and arrows, and spears, and wooden shields and bucklers. Viewed literally, such an invasion does not fit today's world. And there is another reason why the literal interpretation won't work. Ezekiel's prophecy says the armies of Gog and Magog come against "a land of unwalled villages," and in Palestine, the Jews have built an infamous wall, to divide and separate Israeli settlers from Palestinians. It is a major feature of the landscape! But Ezekiel said Gog and Magog would come against a land of unwalled villagers. Much to the chagrin of popular dispensationalist "prophets," the separation wall built over the past decade thwarts their interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy, as an invasion of Israel by the armies of modern nations such as Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria etc. Since the wall has been built, how can that land be called a "land of unwalled villages"? [Ezekiel 38:11]
The wall consists of fenced sections are in rural areas, and an up
to 8 m
high concrete wall where it runs through the towns and villages. See
Most of the wall is built on confiscated West Bank land. It is over 700 km long, with concrete guard or sniper towers. The fence sections include coils of razor wire and electronic sensors, with trenches and roads for patrol vehicles. It has involved a massive construction project. A wall of any sort through towns and villages creates a huge inconvenience, and makes many communities feel like living in a prison. The wall separates Palestinians from schools, markets and jobs, and from relatives.
Some towns that were once thriving are almost completely enclosed. The Israel-West bank border is unique in the modern world for having such a prominent wall. It utterly thwarts the interpretations that Zionist dispensationalists have proposed for Ezekiel's prophecy, but they are stuck defending their demonstrably flawed interpretation.
Horses that the hordes of Gog and Magog ride upon can be identified from scripture as people who have no understanding.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
The false prophets who come against the saints deceive gullible people with their flawed interpretations, which "ride" them like a rider on a horse!
Isaiah said, the wilderness will become fruitful, for Zion, which is identified with the church in Hebrews 12:22-23. He will "make her wilderness like Eden." In the NT, the church's status is described as like that of the Israelites in the "wilderness," in 1 Cor. 10:1-12, Rev. 12:6, and 14.
For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
The land "brought back from the sword" that the false teachers come against is the spiritual inheritance that is promised to the church.
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.