Brian Godawa – Israel in Bible Propehcy

Book Review:
– A Literal 1st Coming & Spiritualized 2nd

The question of Israel in Bible prophecy is one that I’ve thought a lot about over the years. Of late there seems to be a growing consensus among believers that the church supersedes the covenants and promises given to the physical descendants of Israel. I’d admit up front in this review that I’m a futurist but I still appreciate seeing the subject through my historicist brethren’s eyes because none of us have a perfect understanding of theology or Bible prophecy. For those willing to look, opposing points of view often help identify weaknesses or errors in our understanding of these complex subjects.

Popular novelist and screenwriter Brian Godawa jumps into this controversial subject with a new book entitled Israel in Bible Prophecy: The New Testament Fulfillment of the Promise to Abraham. Mr. Godawa opens his discussion of Israel in Bible prophecy with a rather broad attack on “merchandisers” of the “Bible Prophecy Industrial Complex.” This criticism, while valid in far too many cases, rings hallow as a preface to a book which itself is for sale.

Later Mr. Godawa rightly observed:

“This kind of big business Bible preaching can be corrupting, through blurring motives and creating a need for constant sensationalism, that often vulgarizes the real intent of prophetic passages, completely out of their original contexts.” Again a valid criticism, but one that not just futurists can be guilty of.

Frankly, I felt that Mr. Godawa’s opening tone serves to raise a barrier to those with an opposing point of view who are trying to see the subject through his eyes. Thus the book ends up reaching a more limited audience, one which probably already agrees with his perspective. I believe many of the subjects raised in this book are important to discuss openly and in the spirit of genuine Christian good will. I think Mr. Godawa’s exploration of the subject would have been better served if he had used a bit softer tone.

The meat of Mr. Godawa’s argument, that the church has inherited the covenants and promises given to Abraham is found in the following six points:

1. Father of Many Nations
2. Children of Abraham
3. Everlasting Covenant
4. Land Promise
5. Conditional Covenant
6. Circumcision

Mr. Godawa attempts to show that each of these six points have been fulfilled in the church. Some of the finer points of this discussion are indeed complex and by necessity it takes a great deal of effort to nail down the context and applicable passages. This would have to be one my biggest criticism of the book in that it was rather short and dealt with some of the more controversial aspects of the subject without really digging into the deeper context. Had Mr. Godawa given the complete context of the Old and New Testament passage from which he quoted in part, the reader might have reached an entirely different conclusion.

Here are a few examples which could have been better served with a fuller context. Mr. Godawa had this to say about the terms Mount Zion and Jerusalem as mentioned in Romans 11:26:

“In Scripture, these terms are used, very often together, as symbolic references to the Kingdom of God, and the city of God, or God’s reign.”

Mr Godawa then quotes Zechariah 8:3 and Micah 4:2 as follows:

(Zechariah 8:3)
“Thus says the Lord, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.’

(Micah 4:2-7)
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Mr .Godawa goes on to says this about the passages:

“As you can readily see, I’ve chosen some specific verses that use Zion and Jerusalem in reference to Messiah, which of course, is Jesus Christ. Dispensationalists claim that these are all literal references to literal Mount Zion and Jerusalem. But the New Testament defines the concepts of Zion and Jerusalem as transcendent, which means they are terms that use literal locations as a metaphor for a more important spiritual idea.”

Respectfully, a careful reading of Roman’s 11, Isaiah 59 & 60 (from which Paul quotes), and all of Zechariah 8 which Mr. Godawa quotes in part, leads not to a transcendent but literal understanding of the passage. Both Old Testament passages tell of a time when the gentiles nations will come up to Jerusalem. In fact if you take Mr. Godawa’s passage from Zechariah 8 and read it to the final verse this is what it has to say:

“Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek YHWH of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before YHWH. Thus saith YHWH of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.”

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Another example where a deeper context would have been helpful for the reader is found in the following quote from Mr. Godawa:

“There is no longer a physical Jewish priesthood before God. In fact , God calls the Church his chosen race, a holy nation, people for his own possession, all terms that were applied to Israel in the Old Covenant.” (Kindle loc. 758)

Mr. Godawa then quotes 1 Peter 2:9-10 to prove his point. The problem with this statement is apparent when the fuller context of Peter’s Epistles are taken into account. Peter was the apostle to the circumcision (Gal. 2:8 (the Jewish people)). If you read just a couple more verse further in the passage Mr. Godawa quoted you see that Peter is in fact addressing the Jewish people. First, Peter address them as “which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.” This is a quote from the book of Hosea which discusses Israel’s disobedience and their eventual restoration. Then in verse 12 of Peter warns his Jewish brethren to have their conversation “honest among the Gentiles.” Clearly Peter is not addressing the Church in general here but in fact Jewish believers in Yeshua, a people who he sees as still distinct from the Gentiles.

(1 Peter 2:7-12)
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, {precious: or, an honour} And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: {peculiar: or, purchased} {praises: or, virtues} Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. {whereas: or, wherein}

Also note that Peter mentions the “stone which the builders disallowed.” This is quote from Yeshua in Matthew 21 in which Yeshua addressed His hard hearted Jewish brethren. Thus confirming that Peter’s audience was the Jewish people.

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When discussing Ephesian’s 2:13-14 Mr. Godawa said the following:

“We simply cannot divide the Jew from the Gentile in God’s promise or plan as the Dispensationalists would want. Jew and Gentiles are one in Christ and cannot be separated because that which separated them (The Laws of separation in the OT) has been abolished.”

I think it would have been helpful if Mr. Godawa had explained here that Pauls “middle wall of partition” was an actual barrier build during the 2nd temple era which separated the court of the Gentiles form the temple proper. During the 2nd temple era any Gentile caught crossing this manmade barrier with the intent to approach the temple proper and the by extension the presence of YHWH was killed. Yeshua’s death and resurrection did indeed remove this barrier thus allowing both Jew and Gentiles the right to approach the presences of God.

Interestingly during the 2nd temple era this wall was accessed by 14 steps and entry granted by one of 13 gates. Matthew in His lineage of Yeshua (Mat. 1) even alludes to this symbolically by showing that Yeshua was the 13th and 14th generation in his 3rd generational grouping. Matthew’s Jewish reader would have also made the connection to the 13 or 14 sacrificial rights required during most of the Biblical holy days, holy days which were governed by a lunar cycle of visible light which waxes for 13 or 14 days and then wanes for the same.

Personally, I don’t believe the Jewish reader would have understood Paul’s statement of Eph. 2:13-14 as a blurring of the distinctiveness of the Jew and Gentile but rather as showing that both become part of the same family. In like manner when Paul in Gal. 3:8 stated:

(Galatians 3:28-29)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Paul in this passage was not telling his reader that men and women, Jew and Greeks lose their physical identities when they become believers. He was simply telling them they become one body of believers.

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In closing I appreciated seeing this subject through the author’s eyes but this is a complex topic and each verse and every topic really needs to be read in its full scriptural context. To be sure Mr. Godawa raised some challenging questions which need to be discussed but in my mind it is difficult to justify an interpretive method which takes as literal, the majority of the Bible’s prophetic record that deal with the first coming of the Messiah, but then takes a none literal approach when interpreting the balance of the prophetic record which discusses the Messiah’s second coming. For those who would like to read both sides of a discussion, Samuel Whitefield recent book,  One King: A Jesus-Centered Answer To The Question Of Zion And The People Of God is a well written exploration of the subject. After reading both books I’d encourage you to open your Bible’s and “see if these things be so”.

Maranatha!

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Author: Brian Godawa
Book Title: Israel In Bible Prophecy: The New Testament Fulfillment of the Promise to Abraham
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Book Reviewed by: William Struse

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