We wake early because our group is going on a long trip today and we have to be at Mary’s Well to meet our coach. We are going to Jaffa (Joppa), Caesarea Maritime, and Megiddo (Armageddon). On the way to breakfast we meet the hotel manager. We ask him why nobody told us that the hotel restaurant would be shut last night? ‘Didn’t the receptionist tell you that when the restaurant is closed you can go to the posh restaurant in the arcade across from the hotel?’ he asks us. ‘We have a reciprocal agreement with them!’ he tells us. We tell him that the receptionist didn’t appear to know about this ‘reciprocal agreement’, because she took us to another restaurant across the square. A restaurant where we had to pay an arm and a leg for a meal!? Perhaps Awesome has a ‘reciprocal agreement’ of her own with this other restaurant? Perhaps it belongs to a relation? The manager is obviously vey embarrassed. We recall all that we have learned since being here about ‘shame and honour’ amongst the Arabs. We don’t want to get Awesome into trouble either. So we assure him that it is all o.k. We were planning to have a meal out somewhere sometime or other, anyway.
After breakfast we go to meet our bus, and soon we are on the long journey towards Tel Aviv and the neighbouring town of Joppa. Alex is our guide for this trip and he brings his father-in-law, Bob with him as well. Alex is very bright. He is in the process of completing a PhD, and will go far in the academic world. He is considered to be one of the brightest up and coming academics that there is today. He speaks fluent Arabic and Hebrew and has an amazing knowledge of all kinds of subjects … and he is only 32 years of age. Because it is a long journey, Alex gives us an impromptu lecture on the various theological attitudes to the land of Israel that Christians have today. Basically there are three theological attitudes to the land of Israel-Palestine: Dispensational Theology, Replacement Theology, and Fulfilment Theology.
Dispensational Theology consists of a distinctive eschatological ‘end times’ perspective as all dispensationalists hold to premillennialism. Dispensationalism is rooted in the writings of John Nelson Darby (1800-82) and the Brethren Movement. Dispensationalists believe that the nation of Israel (not necessarily the same as the State of Israel) is distinct from the Christian Church and that God has yet to fulfil his promises to national Israel. These promises include land promises which in the future world to come, result in a millennial kingdom and Third Temple, where Christ, upon his return, will rule the world from Jerusalem for a thousand years. Despite being less than 200 years old, Dispensational Theology is widely held by many evangelical Christians, particularly in the USA.
Replacement Theology, reduced to its simplest form, teaches that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. God has set aside Israel and made the Church the ‘new Israel’. Israel’s role as the people of God was either forfeited or completed with the coming of Messiah. A transition occurred at that point, and the Church took over as the people of God and became the focal point in the out working of God’s plan and purpose in redemption. This view has lost popularity in recent years, primarily because of the way in which has spawned anti-Jewish tendencies.
Fulfilment Theology is a healthier development of Replacement Theology, and contends that, since the time of Jesus, the Jews no longer enjoy a God-given national destiny in the land of Canaan. This time around it is not the Church that replaces Israel and takes over all her promises in Scripture, but Jesus himself. He fulfils in his life and redemptive work all the promises that God ever made to the Jews, even the promise that Canaan would be the everlasting possession of the Jewish people. Jesus himself is the Promised Land. There are not two covenants in operation but one, the new covenant. As Paul reminds the Galatians, ‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – the Israel of God (which clearly has a broader meaning than just the Jewish people)’ (Galatians 6:15,16).
It is all fascinating stuff and we are captivated. Alex is one of the brightest academics I have come across and is so happy to share his incredible knowledge with us in such a humble and endearing way. In many ways he reminds me of George Beasley-Murray in that, like George, Alex genuinely seems to believe that we are all as clever as he is and that we are really interested in sharing together the things that grab him. And we are interested … Alex makes everything interesting … and important!
The time flys by and soon we are in Jaffa. We visit the Church of Saint Peter associated with Peter staying at Simon the Tanner’s house, his vision of the sheet let down from heaven with all the unclean animals on it, and the healing of Dorcas (Acts 10). We then wander round the markets of Jaffa, and have some lunch, before driving on to Caesarea Maritime where Paul was tried before Festus and Herod Agrippa (Acts 25 and 26). It is an amazing site, full of interest, and there is so much to see and photograph. We spend quite some time there. We were going on to Megiddo (Armageddon) but some of the other tour guides tell us that that site closes at 3.00 p.m. and not 5.00 p.m. Caesarea Maritime is a fascinating site with so much stuff of historical and biblical interest. We walk all round it and then stop off at the amazing Roman Aqueduct further along the shore, before heading back home to Nazareth. By popular request Alex shares more of his thoughts with us … this time to do with the sociology of ‘conversion’ (the subject of his PhD dissertation). Once again it is fascinating and we all learn so much.
Our coach drops us off at Mary’s Well and we only have a short walk back to our hotel. We have time for a short rest before dinner. The restaurant at Villa Nazareth is closed again tonight so we are sent across the road to the posh restaurant that we should have been sent to on Sunday night. There are a group of Belgians, who are also staying at Villa Nazareth who come with us. Although it is a posh restaurant, we are obviously on the cheap all in menu which is clearly part of the reciprocal deal between the posh restaurant and Villa Nazareth. The starter salads are a bit different to those at Saint Margaret’s. Julia really like them and wolfs them down like there is no tomorrow. Then the main dish is brought out … and of course it is chicken again!
Thank you for your kinds words! A small note though: fulfillment theology does not see Jesus as the Promised Land himself, but rather that as the fulfillment of God’s Israel he has indeed inherited the land, but in God’s grace he has expanded the promise of the land to encompass the entire world–all authority in heaven and on earth…I will make you as a light unto the nations, that my salvation should reach to the ends of the earth…and so on.
-Duane Alexander Miller