This past weekend I was at a Bible Camp attending a men’s retreat. It was spiritually refreshing. One item of interest happened within the first hour I got there and the last hour I left. They were like bookend events.
After arriving and grabbing some pizza, the servant in charge led a Bible study out of Revelation 12. Now that’s not your normal passage to pick for a Bible study if you only have about 45 minutes. The servant in charge stayed with a basic theme of the warfare which includes mankind, Satan, and the Christ. When introducing the woman from Revelation 12:1-2, he defined her as “The nation of Israel culminating in Mary”. I certainly agreed with the Mary part, but for definition’s sake, I can’t agree with the Israel part. At the end, he opened it up for discussion, but the Sawyer Highland’s group started arriving and it made the conversation concerning the Bible passage fizzle out.
For some time I have maintained that the woman is the church, of which believing Israel is a part. This entity extends back to the garden of Eden with Eve and forward to Mary, but even further forward with every one who will enter the grace of God through faith. The woman began her birth pains after being expelled from the garden of Eden in anticipation of the Seed Promise. The twelve stars are the twelve apostles who will judge the twelve tribes of Israel during the Messianic kingdom. It was not the nation of Israel in unbelief that brought forth the Messiah, but the godly remnant within the nation of Israel known as Israel elect, along with believing Gentiles occasionally thrown in the mix (Rahab, Ruth, Bath-Sheba). In his study, the servant in charge had shared that the woman was bringing forth a son which had been promised from the garden of Eden, and made specific reference to the Seed Promise.
The whole retreat goes by with three excellent sermons from the main speaker, then it’s Sunday morning brunch just before we leave. The servant in charge (who was not the main speaker by the way), decides to sit with me and my ONE FRIENDS Jim. After some general discussion, I decided to ask my question which I had been mulling since Thursday evening. I asked, “I have a trick question for you about your study the other night. The question comes amidst the debate between dispensationalism and covenant theology.” He said, “Okay, go ahead.”
“Was Mary a part of the nation of Israel, or a part of the church?”
He answered, “Yes. I hope that clears it up.” He had a knowing smirk on his face. He continued, “I don’t draw the fine distinctions that most dispensationalists do. My background is in dispensationalism, but I see more continuity in the Biblical narrative. I see one story from Genesis to Revelation. Have you read anything on Progressive Dispensationalism?”
My ONE FRIENDS Jim just about choked on his apple bread pudding as he asked this question. I said that I had. He mentioned that they had done some good things with their position, and I agreed. He finished by asking if what he had given me was a convoluted enough answer.
Then I asked, “Then based on your convoluted answer, and based on your mentioning the Seed Promise from Genesis 3:15, can we not see the woman as the church with the twelve stars being the twelve apostles?” His answer was, “Oh definitely.” He reiterated about not being able to draw such fine line distinctions as the dispensationalists of time past had done. He talked about continuity between Israel and the church. So after some discussion, I see that he and I have basically the same position.
But, dispensationalism still remains his default position. Otherwise, in his presentation, he would either change his definition from Israel, or redefine what he means by Israel. But don’t get me wrong either. God was using the nation of Israel to accomplish His purpose of bringing forth a Messiah. But God was not using unbelieving Israel. He was using His chosen ones, both Israelite and Gentile: the nation within a nation. At Pentecost, the believing remnant of Israelites became immersed in the Holy Spirit of a future kingdom. Now they are the church and the eschatological people of God with any Gentile standing on equal ground. So while I believe his terminology has to qualify itself, so does mine. We need to make sure to define what we mean by Israel and the church since there are erroneous definitions out there.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman