A New Baggins

I am delighted to announce that the GB has a new Baggins. Maybe we ought to call him a Took or a Brandybuck. Nah. In here we’re all Bagginses. The Rev. Steve Carr has agreed to become a Baggins, and I look forward to seeing his posts on here.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 6A Israel and the Church

Posted by R. Fowler White

The Typological Significance of Israel:
From Having a Temple to Being a Temple

Summary: God has one program in the history of redemption, and its unity and focus are found in Christ and the church, the Last Adam and His bride (Gen 3:15; Eph 1:10; 3:11). God does not have two (or more) programs, one for Israel, one for the Church (nor does he have a third program for the nations). In other words, the Bible is Christ-centered, not Israel-centered, and Israel, not the church, is God’s “parenthesis” in history.

I. In the beginning, God gave Adam and his bride Eve the commission to rule and fill the earth under God’s blessing, to God’s glory, and according to God’s word (Gen 1:28; 2:15-17). Since the first Adam failed (Gen 3), God in His grace promised to send a second man—the Last Adam—to succeed where the first Adam had failed (Gen 3:15; 1 Cor 15:21-28, 45-49). God promised, in effect, that Christ and His bride would succeed where Adam and his bride had failed. God has carried out His promise in history through a succession of covenants.

II. 1 Cor 10:6, 11—Now these things took place as examples for [i.e., types of] us, that we might not desire evil as they did. … Now these things happened to them as an example [i.e., a type], but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Certain parallels between Israel and the church get our attention.

A. Exodus, first and new: Israel under Moses offered the Passover Lamb, a lamb without physical spot or blemish, for their deliverance from Egypt. Christ is the greater and true Passover Lamb sacrificed for His people, Heb 2:10-13, a lamb without moral spot or blemish, 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19; John 1:29; Rev 5:6-9. His death brings about the New Exodus, Luke 9:31.

B. Baptism into Moses and into Christ, Meal with Moses and with Christ: Israel was baptized into Moses; the church has been baptized into Christ. Israel fed on the manna from heaven and drank the water from the Rock in the wilderness. Likewise, the church feeds on Christ the true bread of life (the true manna) and drinks the true water of life, the Holy Spirit, from Christ the living Rock.

C. Warning of wrath, past and present: Israel’s exodus generation in the wilderness set a bad example for the church. They fell away from the living God into unbelief, and God denied them entry into Canaan (Heb 3:10-19; 1 Cor 10:5-6). The church, now also in the wilderness, should therefore take a warning that, if any in the church should fall away as Israel did, God will also deny them entry into New Canaan.

D. Faith and apostasy, past and present: It was said of Israel’s exodus generation that they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses (Exod 14:31). Moreover, to them Moses preached God’s promise of rest in earthly Canaan. Nevertheless, the faith of most of them (1 Cor 10:5; aka all those whose bodies fell in the wilderness, Heb 3:16-17) failed when temptation and trial came in the wilderness. The promise of rest preached to them did not profit them (Heb 4:2, 6). The faith they expressed at the beginning of the exodus proved to be temporary. Despite the faith they confessed at first and the blessings they had in common with all who belonged to that community, most proved in the end to have an evil, unbelieving heart when they fell away from the living God in the wilderness.

E. Rest promised in the first Canaan and in the New Canaan: Israel’s exodus generation had God’s promise of rest in earthly Canaan preached to them. So the church has had God’s promise of rest in the New Canaan (new earth) preached to them. See Heb 4:1-13; 12:26-28.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5B Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation (conc.)

Posted by R. Fowler White

Gentile Christians should understand the mystery at work in God’s salvation of Israel, Rom 11:25-27. In this context, the term mystery means something known and understood only by divine revelation.

I. A part of Israel, not all of Israel, has been hardened, Rom 11:25.

A. Note well: Paul says in 11:25 what he has already said in 11:5, 7: “a partial hardening has happened” = “the rest were hardened.” The hardening in Israel is not total; it is only partial. There is an elect remnant in Israel. Thus, “the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened.”

B. Note well: Paul does not say, “a temporary hardening has happened.” Paul is not thinking of events that happen sequentially; rather he is thinking of events that happen concurrently (contemporaneously), 11:30-31: “the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened.” There is both obtaining and hardening at the present time.

C. How long does this partial hardening last? When does this partial hardening end? It lasts until—it ends when—“the fullness of [= the full number of the elect remnant from among] the Gentiles has come in.”

II. What follows the end (completion) of Israel’s partial hardening? Will the hardening be lifted so that there is no longer just a remnant, but rather a total—or at least a vast-majority—restoration/conversion of the Israelite nation? Is Paul’s point in 11:12 that, after the fullness of Israel comes in, there will be blessing for the Gentiles even greater than during the period of Israel’s apostasy? The context must decide. Note: if all the Gentile elect are saved with Israel in a state of partial hardening, then there will be no more Gentiles left to save if that condition is ever remedied. This can only mean that the full number of the Israelite elect is saved while, not after the full number of Gentiles is saved. This means that the “resurrection” in 11:15, which follows the salvation of the fullness of Israel, cannot be a massive Gentile revival, but is best taken as a reference to the general resurrection of the dead.

III. And thus all Israel will be saved, Rom 11:26.

A. And thus tells us not when (= “And then, after the full number of Gentiles comes in, … “), but how—“in such a manner; by such a process; by this means”—all Israel will be saved. Paul’s point is not the fact that the totality of Israel (head for head) will be saved, but the fashion in which all the elect remnant of Israel will be saved. In the preceding verses, Paul has looked to the past and the present to understand the fashion in which God brings salvation to Israel.

B. all Israel: who are they?

1. Are they “all ethnic descendants of Abraham”? No, that’s a form of ethnic universalism, at least in a given generation; in the past and the present God has saved according to the principle of particularism (remnant).

2. Are they “all ethnic descendants of Abraham living in the future”? No, this too is contrary to the historical principles of election and reprobation. Moreover, Israel was never defined purely in ethnic terms: circumcised Gentiles were counted as Israelites; similarly, covenant-breaking descendants of Abraham were counted as non-Israelites, Gen 17:14. Israel was defined covenantally, not ethnically.

3. Are they “most ethnic descendants of Abraham living in the future”? There is no basis in biblical history on which to quantify the percentage that God will save most of those in any given generation of ethnic descendants. What we know is that historically God has consistently applied the principle of election. We must also keep in mind that God defines Israel covenantally, not ethnically.

4. Are they “all the elect of ethnic Israel, the full number of elect from Israel throughout the ages”? This interpretation yields a good sense of the text. It is consistent with the parallel term the fullness of the Gentiles = the full number of elect from the Gentiles throughout the ages. Its weakness is that it neglects the union of Jew and Gentile by ingrafting into the one olive tree in Rom 11:16-24.

5. The most satisfying answer: all Israel refers to the full number of elect from Israel together with the full number of the elect ingrafted from the Gentiles.

IV. Summary: God works the disobedience and obedience of Jews and Gentiles to the gospel together according to His purpose in election and mercy. Jewish disobedience leads to Gentile obedience; Gentile obedience anticipates Jewish obedience. From the Gospel perspective, Israel is a nation hostile to the gospel for the sake of the Gentiles. From the Election perspective, Israel is a nation beloved for the sake of the fathers. In other words, there is a remnant among the children of the flesh as there is among all the Gentile nations. God has not rejected Israel completely, but He has done so partially. Israel’s stumbling served God’s purposes beyond their fall, namely, the purposes of Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy. We are not to think, however, that the provocation of the Jews to jealousy is a phenomenon only at the end of the age after the full number of the Gentiles has come in. Rather, the fullness of Israel and the fullness of the Gentiles are both coming in (i.e., being saved) throughout the interadvent age. When the fulness of the remnant from all the nations on earth comes in, then, Christ’s evangelistic mission will have come to an end, bringing about the resurrection and final judgment of the righteous and the wicked.

Sodom’s Destruction Discovered? The Archeological Evidence, and Chronological Quandry.

by David Gadbois

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

Genesis 19:24-28


Genesis describes an astounding, apocalyptic destruction of a region near the Dead Sea, where Abraham’s nephew Lot resided. What phenomenon could have been responsible for the sort of destruction described here? And is there good external evidence for it occurring? Especially the sort of evidence that would allow us to date the event.

In September of 2021, the archeological team responsible for excavating the ancient site of Tall el-Hammam (in present-day Jordan, East of the Jordan River and NE of the Dead Sea) published their findings in a mainstream, peer-reviewed journal, arguing that a meteor impact was responsible for the destruction observed at the site, around the 17th Century B.C. This would have been a particular sort of impact, where the meteor explodes in earth’s atmosphere before reaching the ground intact (sometimes called a bolide or an airburst meteor). While these types don’t leave behind craters, the amount of energy released in terms of heat and pressure are comparable to megaton-class nuclear bomb detonations.

While these events are rare, we do know of a similar impact known as the Tunguska impact in 1908 in Siberia. This flattened millions of trees over an area of hundreds of square miles. A much smaller meteor airburst was caught by many video cameras over a region further west in Russia in 2013.

The excavation of the site began in 2005, and these findings of the destruction layer are not exactly brand new. See this 2018 paper by Phillip Silvia, a principle member of the excavation team, along with this Times of Israel news article from the same year. But it is significant that this more comprehensive article has now been published in Scientific Reports (part of the Nature Portfolio, that also publishes Nature). The article is quite long and, at points, very technical, but one can simply read the abstract if the content is too overwhelming. In addition, one can consult this Christianity Today article (Sept. 2021) for a compact overview, this brief blog announcement from Dr. David Graves, or view this well-produced video from apologist/blogger Michael Jones of Inspiring Philosophy.

The excavators paint a vivid picture in their conclusion:

We conclude that the only plausible formation mechanism that can account for the entire range of evidence in Table 3 is a crater-forming impact or a cosmic airburst, most likely somewhat larger than the 22-megaton airburst at Tunguska, Siberia in 1908. The data also suggest an airburst occurred a few kilometers SW of Tall el-Hammam causing, in rapid succession, a high- temperature thermal pulse from the fireball that melted exposed materials, including roofing clay, mudbricks, and pottery. This was followed by a high-temperature, hypervelocity blast wave that demolished and pulverized mudbrick walls across the city, leveling the city, and causing extensive human mortality. An important observation is that although local sediment can melt at ~ 1300 °C, that is a minimum temperature but not a maximum one, a conclusion that is supported by the presence of embedded minerals that melted at temperatures of up to ~ 2500 °C. In addition, anomalously high salt content in the debris matrix is consistent with an aerial detonation above high-salinity sediments near the Jordan River or above the hypersaline Dead Sea. This event, in turn, distributed salt across the region, severely limiting regional agricultural development for up to ~ 600 years.

Should Christians consider this to be a good and, perhaps, even strong archeological and scientific confirmation of the Genesis account of Abraham, Lot, and the destruction of the Cities of the Plain? My answer is: if the technical merits regarding the nature of the destruction at Tall el-Hammam withstand scrutiny, YES! It would be very difficult indeed, to believe that such a rare and spectacular bolide destruction would happen to wipe out a region of cities near the Dead Sea, of precisely the destructive nature and description we find in the Genesis account, if it were unrelated to the biblical Sodom & Gomorrah.

This thesis, however, does not come without some controversy, even amongst theologically-conservative Christian scholars. The more-traditional of these scholars locate Abraham’s life primarily in the late third millennium B.C., not during the Middle Bronze Age of the second millennium B.C. as the work of the Tall el-Hammam excavators would suggest. For instance, Andrew Steinmann writes “…the events of Abraham’s life took place from 2166 to 1991 BC” (From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology, 2011, p.71). That’s still centuries before the earliest feasible date of ~1750 B.C. that was found for Tall el-Hammam’s destruction according to carbon-14, pottery, and artifact dating.

But other scholars, such as Kenneth Kitchen, place Abraham later than the traditional date: “The first and by far the biggest section…can offer almost a score of very varied lines of evidence that tie Abraham/Isaac/Jacob/Joseph to the overall period circa 1900-1600 (2000-1500 at the outermost limits)” (On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 2003, p.358).

That would seem to dovetail nicely with the Tall el-Hammam destruction. This issue however, is wrapped up with a variety of other hairy, complex chronological and interpretive issues: the Long vs. Short Sojourn in Egypt, the possible use of stylistic/honorific numbers in lifespans in the Pentateuch, gaps in the genealogies, textual variants between the Masoretic, LXX, and Samaritan manuscripts, and to some extent the always-controversial debate concerning the dating of Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt. It is impossible to go in to all of that, and disentangle such a web in this short blog article.

I’ll mention only briefly that the location of Sodom is disputed. Tall el-Hammam is on the north-east end of the Dead Sea and thus fits northern geographical theories. Other scholars, such as Bryant Wood, have argued for a location on the southern side of the Dead Sea. I haven’t studied the matter in detail, but I haven’t yet seen a slam-dunk argument on either side. It may be that the biblical data is ambiguous (to us distant, modern readers, anyway) or simply under-determines the issue.

It can certainly be apologetically-hazardous to hang one’s hat on a single archeological finding. We don’t have dash cam footage of the Tall el-Hammam meteor, nor did anyone find a sign in the ruins saying “welcome to Sodom!” But I think we should consider the evidence that we do have to be, at minimum, promising. It is the only reasonable candidate we know of, at this time, for the sort of heavenly destruction we find in the Genesis account. As such, it is a worthy plank in an inductive case for the veracity of the Old Testament.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5A Paul on Israel’s Rejection and Salvation

Posted by R. Fowler White

In my view, the best overall treatments of this subject are found in O. P. Robertson, The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Presbyterian and Reformed, 2001), ch. 6, and Sam Storms, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Christian Focus, 2013), ch. 10.

I. Context of Romans—Condemnation of sinners: the need for righteousness by Jews as well as Gentiles, 1:18-3:20. Justification of sinners: the imputation of righteousness by grace through faith in Christ, 3:21–5:11. Sanctification and glorification of the justified: union with and final conformation to Christ, 5:12–8:39. Vindication of the God of Israel: His righteousness in relation to Israel, 9:1–11:36. Application: God’s righteousness at work in His people, 12:1–15:13.

II. Overview of Romans 9–11—Vindication of the God of Israel: His righteousness in relation to Israel, 9:1–11:36. God’s rejection of Israel according to the principle of election, 9:1-29. God’s rejection of Israel explained: their refusal of God’s gift of righteousness, 9:30–10:21. God’s rejection of Israel qualified: neither complete nor without purpose, 11:1-32. Doxology 11:33-36.

A. God has not rejected Israel completely, but has done so partially, 11:1-10. The remnant of the present is Paul’s proof that God has not rejected His people (i.e., that God is faithful to His word). The living proof of Paul himself, 11:b-2a; the proof from the past: the parallel case of Elijah, 11:2b-6. The point: general apostasy does not mean that there is no remnant. The condition of Israel is twofold: blessing to the elect, blindness of the rest, 11:7-10. Note: Paul does not prove his point by citing a restoration in the future, but by citing the presence of a remnant in the present. God is dealing with Israel now as He has always dealt with Israel.

B. Israel’s stumbling served two purposes: Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy. Israel did not stumble merely for the purpose that they should fall, but for the purpose that Gentiles should be saved and they (Israel) should be made jealous by Gentile salvation, 11:11-15. God’s purposes included a good beyond the tragedy of Israel’s unbelief: Gentile salvation and Jewish jealousy and salvation. Paul argues from the lesser to the greater, 11:11-12, 15: the lesser (trespass, failure, rejection) brings riches to the Gentiles, the greater (fullness, acceptance) means “resurrection.”

1. Note well: by magnifying his ministry to the Gentiles, Paul intends to make the Jews jealous now, in the present age, 11:13-14, 30-31.

2. The provocation of the Jews to jealousy, then, is not a phenomenon only, if at all, at the end of the age after the full number of the Gentiles has come in. It is a reality coming to pass in Paul’s 1st C. ministry and in the course of the present age.

C. Gentiles should not boast/gloat over the condition of Israel, 11:16-24. The lesson, 11:22-24, applied to Gentiles: warning of being cut off for those who don’t continue in faith; applied to Jews: promise of regrafting for those who believe.

1. The patriarchal root that supports Gentiles is the same root that supports Jews. Gen 12:3 (cf. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Jer 4:2; Acts 3:25), In you [the patriarchs through Christ], all the families of the earth—Gentiles and Jews—will be blessed. Abraham is reckoned the father of all who believe, Jews as well as Gentiles.

2. It is not that Gentiles replace Jews; it is that Gentiles are ingrafted to the same root.

3. God broke off the Israelite nation from His visible church through the ministry of Jesus, Matt 21:43, as prophesied by John the Baptist, Matt 3:11-12.

4. God re-grafts the elect Israelite remnant now by making them jealous. This is the merciful complement to His judgment on the nation. Acts gives us examples: the Pentecost conversions; Paul; Crispus; Apollos. In judgment God remembers mercy.

Eschatology Outlines: No. 5B Paul on Israel’s Salvation and Rejection (conc.)