In an interview on Newsmax.tv’s Steve Malzberg show, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert appealed to dispensational theologian Joel Rosenberg, citing Bible prophecy as reason to support modern-day Israel.
On the one hand, it is heartening to see a Congressman openly and honestly cite his convictions based upon Scripture.
On the other hand, if the interpretation and application are wrong, all manner of evil can result—i.e., interventionism, wars, and neoconservativism.
This administration has been twisting arms in ways that we don’t hear about publicly. The pressure on Israel. . . . Since I do believe the Bible, and my friend Joel Rosenberg points out in Joel that those nations that divide Israel are going to be judged and it isn’t going to be pretty—I hate to be the country that betrays Israel, that demands that they give up land that had been given to them. I think we’re in real trouble with the pressure this administration is doing.
Several things are at issue here. Let’s address one of main ones: the timing and application of the prophecy of Joel.
Gohmert is making reference here to Joel 3:2–3:
I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.
Mr. Gohmert (following Rosenberg) thinks this pertains to nations today (including the U.S.), to modern-day ethno-geographic Israel, and to some great judgment event in our own future.
(See Rosenberg’s exposition of Joel 3 here. The following criticism is equally of his views as it is of Gohmert’s.)
But there are problems with this view. There are some time-indicators for which interpreters must account. Joel chapter 3 is seamlessly connected with chapter 2, going back to at least verse 28 (remember, chapter divisions are modern inventions—not inspired). Joel 2:28 begins, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. . . .” There is no break in the prophecy from there on to the end of the whole book of Joel. In fact, Joel 3:1 begins by tying directly to the same time: “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations. . . .” (Joel 3:1–2).
The point is this: for whatever is prophesied to happen in Joel 3, we have strong indication that it will take place in the same days and at the same time as what was prophesied to happen in Joel 2:28–32.
And here is the fact that makes Gohmert/Rosernberg’s application strained (nearly impossible I should say): the Apostle Peter says that Joel 2:28–31 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, way back in the first century:
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. . . .’” (Acts 2:14–17).
The interpreters of the judgment of the nations for the “dividing” of Israel prophesied in Joel 3 must acknowledge that it is tied to the same “those days and at that time” as the Joel 2 which Peter says was fulfilled in the first century.
Rosenberg specifically notes the phrase “in those days and at that time” and specifically asks, “What time?” He makes no mention at all of Peter in Acts 2, and instead claims this time will be “The time of the physical, literal, actual Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . The end of human history as we have known it and the dawn of the Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the throne of David in Jerusalem.”
That’s not what Peter said.
Nor is it what Paul said. He ties the prophecy to his days as well. In Romans 10:13, he directly quotes Joel 2:32:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls (Joel 2:32).
Again, the interpreters of Joel 3 must deal with the fact that it is tied to Joel 2 in regard to time, and that Paul here applies it in his time, the first century.
So the prophecy of judgment pertained to that generation, as Peter’s and Paul’s words show. The prophecy to which Gohmert refers was fulfilled in the generation of the first century. The great judgment of which it speaks pertained to first-century unbelieving Israel, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Those who “escaped,” who “called upon the Lord” (Joel 2:32), were the remnant that became the foundations of true Israel—the body of Christ, the New Testament ekklesia, or what we call, perhaps unfortunately, “the church.”
When we let Scripture interpret Scripture, it sometimes forces us to adjust our understanding of terms, timings, and passages. In this case, we are forced to see the fulfillment of the Joel 3 judgment in the first century. A more thorough review of these passages would also make clear a better understanding of Israel as well.
In the end, whether Obama’s foreign policy is good or not (it is not, but Gohmert’s is not much better), there is no reason to attach special significance to modern ethno-geographic Israel. It is a product of pagan Zionism and is no less pagan than the Arab nations surrounding it. Until it is converted to Christ by grace through faith, it will have no part in the kingdom of God. Any modern “divisions” of the land are no more significant than any other boundary dispute or real estate transaction.
He who hath an ear—including Presidents and Congressmen—let him hear.