Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Whose House?

Whether more contemporary hiphop lyrics about "Run's House" or a British nursery rhyme about the "house that Jack built" the focus on houses goes back millennia. In monarchies we talk about the "House of..." whatever ruling family. In politics we talk about the House of Lords and Commons or Representatives. In the Bible we also see the focus on some houses.

  • The House of Jacob
  • The House of Judah
  • The House of Israel
  • The House of Joseph
  • The House of David

We might replace the word House with Line or Family or Descendants or even Kingdom, but even then the entire meaning is not captured. The Bible isn't merely talking about biological connections to these people (Jacob/Israel, Judah, Joseph, David), but also the ideological and spiritual line.

If you know your Bible basics, especially the "begats" you will know that Jacob and Israel are the same person. Jacob was his birth name and later God gave him the name of Israel. (Genesis 32:28-29 and 35:10) Jacob had 12 sons often referred to as the 12 tribes of Israel (no connection to the 12 days of Christmas). Judah and Joseph are two of Israel's sons.


One way to look at the House of Israel is that it encompasses all of Jacob's/Israel's descendants. But during the first century people weren't called "Israelis" as we hear of people living in the present nation of Israel. Often they were just called Jews. But before we get too far into that, why does the Bible sometimes use the designation House of Jacob and House of Israel? Is there a difference since Jacob and Israel are the same person. Well, Jacob and Israel are only the same person in a biological sense. Jacob only became Israel AFTER his interaction with the Lord as we saw in Gen 32 and 35. Jacob may represent the unenlightened humanity of the person whereas Israel is the "God-knowing" persona.

But if it's not confusing enough, what is the difference between a Jew and a Hebrew? A Jew might more accurately represent the race and religion of a people whereas Hebrew is a language of a people; though it is still accurate to say the "Hebrews" or the "Hebrew Nation" because it reflects the shared heritage of these people.  While scholars like to pretend the Bible always clearly makes a distinction between Jews/Israel/Hebrews, it does not. Thus, reading too much into when the Bible uses one term over another may generate some fanciful doctrines.  I've even seen some people try to delineate Jews as group within the larger House of Israel or House of Judah yet Jesus/the Messiah was often referred to as the "King of the Jews" AND the King of Israel. (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus,_King_of_the_Jews)


Now what about the difference between the House of Israel and the House of Judah? In about 930BC, the united Kingdom of Israel became divided and for a time there were two kingdoms of "Jews" if you will. The Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.  Eventually both kingdoms were destroyed and taken into captivity by their conquerors. This captivity is said to have caused a "diaspora" where the House of Israel co-mingled with the people's of the earth and became the so called "lost 10 tribes".  The House of Judah (along with Benjamin = 2 tribes) is said to be the Jews that returned to Judea and repopulated the region until they were once again scattered by the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem and Judea.


Depending who is interpreting, the idea is that the lost tribes will eventually reunite with the House of Judah and the Ezekiel 37:16-19 scenario will be fulfilled. Some people may see this as a re-emergence and dominance of the Jewish/Hebrew/Israeli people. They might even connect it to the 1948-1967 re-establishment of the nation of Israel; pointing out that people of Jewish descent (ie "lost tribes") joined with the House of Judah and re-established the united kingdom.

Another interpretation is that the "Gentiles"; the people among whom the "lost tribes" settled and inter-bred are seen as re-uniting with the House of Judah, not just in the physical place of Israel but as a united people worshiping the one God. It can be said that it will be a time when the "Jews" will finally realize that Jesus is the Messiah; and thus the Houses unite.


Pinning down a uniform preterist position has become increasing difficult as the movement has fractured more and more since the late 1990s but some preterist interpretations range from Todd Dennis who claims Jesus is Israel (see: http://www.preteristarchive.com/StudyArchive/j/jesus-is-israel.html) to Ward Fenley who would say the AD70 eschaton was the time when the Houses were united.

"Nowhere in the Old Testament prophecies was there ever an indication that there would be two, far- removed phases of one kingdom. It is no wonder that those who call themselves Jews today look at Christianity with such contempt. At least those professing Jews recognize that the Old Testament is very clear: the time of Messiah is the time to bring in the fulness of the everlasting kingdom, a time that Paul regarded as a 'short work in righteousness.'" -- (Don Preston: http://eschatology.com/alreadybutnotyet.html)
The key difference, at least between Dispensationalists (which are whom preterists are really referring when they call people "futurists") and preterists is that Dispensationalists often do see 1948-1967 as the regathering of the scattered/shattered people. (Deu 28:64, Is 11:12, Jer 16:14-15, 29:14).  Whereas much of historical Christianity has advocated a form of Supersessionism, also known as Replacement Theology. This is based on verses like Mt 21:43 which reads:

"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit"

It is not so much about replacing the old covenant people but more about absorbing the "true sons of Abraham", the "true Jew" into the always intended purpose of one people of faith based on regeneration rather than genealogy. The spiritual over the physical. (Gal 3:7, 29, Rom 2:28-29)

Lastly, the preterists (and much of historical Christianity) might claim that no person alive today can really trace their ancestry to Judah or Israel/Jacob or any other of the 12 tribes. In fact, the interbreeding with non "Jews" is so complete; that there isn't really any "true/pure Jew" in the sense that there were pre-AD70. While someone may be able to show how their family has a long history of practicing Judaism, that doesn't really make them a Jew in the pure sense. So, it is not possible to have a regathering today in the physical sense. The 1948-1967 establishment of Israel was a political, not a covenantal event. The Israelis are not "God's Chosen People" UNLESS they repent and believe in Christ Jesus.

Many preterists are actually hostile toward anyone today claiming to be a Jew and some preterists actually call for the disbanding of the present nation of Israel. (see: http://www.restorationgj.com/id213.htm)

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