THE GATHERING OF THE GODLESS
A FALSE VIEW OF ISRAEL'S RESTORATION
Pastor Jory Steven Brooks CBIA, Canada
WERE the exiled tribes of Israel reunited in unbelief? Under the heading: "Ezekiel's Prophecy Confutes British-Israel Claims," dispensationalist author Anton Darms stated,
"The Prophet Ezekiel (593-573 B.C.) was taken captive to Babylon in the first deportation, and thus spent a number of years by the river Chebar, between the Tigris and the Euphrates in northern Mesopotamia, where he met with the exiles of the ten tribes who were stationed there." (p 47)
Darms was a leading critic of the B.I. movement who wrote a much-distributed book called, "The Delusion of British-Israelism," which went through many printings in the 1930's through 1950's. It is important to examine his argument because his primary thesis coincides with that of many others in the dispensationalist movement today: The houses of Israel and Judah were rejoined during their exile from Palestine, and they all came back to Jerusalem as one united people immediately after the fall of Babylon. If this were true, then there were no lost tribes, no dispersion of the house of Israel to Europe and Britain, and the Jewish people constitute all of Israel in the world today. As Darms expresses it,
"The thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel is unquestionable proof of God's purpose to unify both houses of Israel and to consolidate them into one nation after the Babylonian captivity." (ibid. p 47)
THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES
Ezekiel chapter 37 is divided into two distinct prophecies. In verses 1 through 14, we read the vision of the dry bones. Darms says,
"In his vision of the dry bones in which he saw the bones coming together 'bone to his bone', he was told that these bones are THE WHOLE HOUSE OF ISRAEL'."(p 47-48, emphasis in original)
This critic assumes that all twelve tribes are represented, ignoring the Scriptural distinction between the houses of Israel and Judah. (See for example, 2
Chronicles 30:1, which contrasts "all Israel" on the one hand, and "Judah" on the other.) Then upon that unstable platform he further assumed that this uniting of the two houses occurred during or immediately following the Babylonian captivity, which the text again nowhere states. This set of baseless assumptions is the foundation for the dispensationalist conviction that all of the Israelites of both houses returned together to Palestine, as one people, and therefore the modern Jews represent all of Israel in the world today. In fact, such assumptions are not only baseless, but disproven by Scripture.
Dispensational doctrine thus consists of one level of assumption heaped on top of another, while the Spiritual factor underlying the parable is totally ignored! A closer look at the dry bones prophecy entirely demolishes their popular pet theory. Both houses of Israel and Judah had been exiled from the Promised Land because of their lapse into paganism and idolatry. This was the central issue behind God's exile of the chosen people. Ezekiel's prophecy concerns a Spiritual
transformation that would take place as a miraculous Divine intervention. Yet the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in this prophecy is never even acknowledged by these dispensational folks who are so eager to remake Israel's moral restoration into a gathering of the godless.
Let us look at the important Spiritual aspect of this prophecy:
"Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live... And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live..." (vv. 4,5, 14a)
The words "spirit" and "breath" in these verses are both translations of the Hebrew "ruach," meaning God's Spirit. This prophecy is not about dead bodies being resurrected, but of a Spiritually dead people restored to Spiritual life and brought back to God. The restoration of Israel here spoken of is therefore first and foremost a Divine work resulting in a Spiritual reformation. To insist, as dispensationalists do, that Israel would be restored and regathered in a condition of pagan immorality makes a mockery of theBiblical text.
The last part of the prophecy states,
"...and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD."
It is an entirely baseless assumption to claim that being placed in "your own land" means old Canaan, especially when God promised in 2 Samuel 7:10 while they
dwelled in Canaan that,
"I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more..."
There was no point in promising that a land would be appointed in the future if it had already been fulfilled in Canaan! Further, since the Jews were later dispersed out of Palestine in 70 A.D. by the Romans, God would have been lying in telling them through Samuel that they would "move no more!" Obviously then, both Ezekiel and Samuel's parallel prophecies were speaking of a land other than old Palestine, where Israel would be Spiritually restored.
THE JOINING OF THE TWO STICKS
Ezekiel gives a second prophecy in chapter 37 verse 15 through 28. Anton Darms says,
"The fulfillment of this prophecy of Ezekiel is seen, first, in the union of both houses of Israel (Ephraim with Judah) in the land of their captivity; then, in their return as 'one nation' to 'the mountains of Israel'..." (ibid. p.48)
Thus, Darms and his fellow dispensationalists again insist that the reunion of the two houses of Israel, as typified in the joining of the two sticks, was fulfilled in a condition of godless unbelief during the Babylonian captivity. Does their interpretation really fit the prophecy? Was the reuniting of the two houses of Israel an
unspiritual godless regathering?
There are several key points Ezekiel makes in this prophecy, which cannot be made to fit the dispensationalist theory. First, we read in verse 22, "one king shall be king to them all..." It is a matter of historical record that from the time of the Babylonian captivity to this day the Jews have had no king-not one!-but were instead under a sucession of rulership including the kings of Persia, Greece, Syria, and Rome until the fall of Jerusalem and removal of its inhabitants in 70 A.D.
Moving forward to our day, the modern Israeli state also has never had a king.
Ezekiel again emphasises in verse 23 that God "will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God." To say that a people in pagan immorality represented the prophetic cleansed, God-honoring nation, is an obvious delusion.
Again Ezekiel prophesied in verse 24,
"And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them."
Since historical King David was then dead over four hundred years, it is obvious that Ezekiel was speaking prophetically of David's greater son, the Messiah. Have the modern Israelis-or any of their ancestors-ever worshipped the Messiah, Jesus Christ, or did they instead reject him? Do they observe God's statutes? Christ himself said,
"Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law" - (John 7:19)
and James said that
"... whosoever shall...offend in one point, he is guilty of all." - (2:10)
It is obvious that the two houses of Israel neither kept God's statutes nor worshipped the Messiah in the B.C. era.
Continuing to the next verse (25), we read,
"And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever."
Ezekiel said that they would dwell in the land forever! If he was speaking of the end of the Babylonian captivity in 538 B.C. as the dispensationalists insist, then he was a false prophet, for the Romans later came and took away "their place and nation" in 70 A.D. (John 11:48). Even more absurd, the dispensationalist theory would logically require us to believe that the eternal reign of this Davidic Messiah also began at the close of the Babylonian captivity! (v. 24-25) This is because the prophetic parts of Ezekiel's "two sticks" vision are interconnected, and cannot be arbitrarily assigned to widely disparate time fulfillments. Thus, Mr. Darms strains our credulity-and the facts-in suggesting that Israel and Judah were reunited long ago in Babylon.
In verse 26, Ezekiel tells us that the rejoining of Israel and Judah would be associated with an everlasting covenant between them and God Almighty, and that God (in the person of David's greater Son and King, Jesus the Messiah) would be "in the midst of them forevermore." Has this prophecy ever yet been fulfilled in the Jewish people? More specifically, was it fulfilled at the time that the Babylonian captivity ended? The Messiah had not even arrived yet!
The final verse of the prophecy, verse 28, reads:
"And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore."
Although there is popular talk today about the Temple of Jerusalem being rebuilt, even dispensationalists teach that this has a Millennial fulfillment. Yet our critics take another part of the same prophecy and insist on it being a Babylonian era fulfillment, because without this crutch their whole argument collapses that "the Two Houses are already rejoined and reunited in the Jewish people of today."
THE PLACE OF ISRAEL'S EXILE
We began our article by quoting Anton Darm's statement that both houses of Israel, Ephraim and Judah, "were stationed there" in Babylonia "by the river Chebar, between the Tigris and the Euphrates in northern Mesopotamia." The average Christian might indeed take this to be a very scholarly statement, yet any competent Biblical or historical scholar would know that it is in fact an example of unscholarly utter ignorance, and riddled with error!
First, Babylonia was not located "in northern Mesopotamia" but in southern Mesopotamia.
Second, it is an established fact, supported by clear Scripture, that Ephraim and Judah were not exiled to the same place. Ephraim was exiled to "Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (2 Kings 17:6), not to Babylonia. The location of these places of Ephraim's exile is in a wide band across the northern regions of the Assyrian empire. The House of Judah was exiled instead to the River Chebar, a Babylonian canal in southern Mesopotamia a few miles outside the city of Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1, 3; 3:15, 23; 10:15-22; 45:3).
ISRAEL'S TRUE RESTORATION
The Bible makes it clear that the two houses of Israel would be reunited only in faith in Christ. Ezekiel's two prophecies in chapter 37 both make this clear. Other prophecies do also, such as the prophet Jeremiah's inspired words in chapter 3, verses 14-15:
"... I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
In the New Testament, we read in John 11:52 concerning Christ, that
"he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad."
It is clear that there would be no true reuniting and restoration of all of Israel outside of faith in Christ. Thus, the popular modern theology that Israel would be regathered in godless unbelief is without Scriptural foundation.
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