Lately I’ve been reading through the articles at the back of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible. I like “big picture” articles, and I expect a lot from contributors with names like D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, T. D. Alexander, and Moisés Silva. Since some of these writers were also the editors of the Bible, I expect to get a quick sense of the approach of the notes throughout the Bible.
I’ve read articles entitled “The Story of the Bible,” “The Bible and Theology,” “A Biblical-Theological Overview of the Bible,” “Covenant,” “Temple,” “The Kingdom of God,” “The City of God,” and this morning, “The People of God.” They are good, and I would commend them to you. These aren’t articles that “touch on” these subjects, but they are intended to be a concise but definitive word written by scholars who have studied these matters for decades.
The simple point that I want to make here today is the observation of what is missing in these global, whole-Bible surveys about these most important subjects. There is a curious omission throughout these articles of a particular portion of Scripture. You may not see this by doing a reference count, but in terms of the message of these books, it is absent. I wonder if you might guess, particularly if I told you that none of the article writers hold to a dispensational approach. Some of them, in fact, are rather strenuously anti-dispensational. Of all of the contributors to the Bible (100?), only two slipped through who adhere to dispensationalism, one of whom wrote on the very safe book of 2 Kings.
The portion of Scripture that is neglected in these big picture articles is the Prophets. The “Kingdom of God” article, for instance, has one reference to Daniel (2:44) and one chain of references to Isaiah (chapters 2, 9, and 11 in a single parenthetical). There are no references to any other prophetic books. By contrast, there are nine references to Matthew and two to Ephesians. I wouldn’t note this if Job was missing in a discussion on the kingdom, but the most extended discussions in the entire Bible about the kingdom are in Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. And yet they are almost entirely overlooked. This isn’t an issue of references, and I appreciate the strict word limits. The problem is that what these prophets taught at length is ignored because they do not fit the theology of the authors (or editors).
They cannot fairly represent the prophetic books and write that “the coming of the kingdom does not immeidately end all evil” and “God’s kingdom exists wherever people acknowledge him as king.” The article on “People of God” has perhaps a hundred references, but nothing that speaks of the hope of Israel as described in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. The article essentially jumps from the judgment upon Israel to “by choosing 12 apostles, Jesus reconstitutes the people of God . . . no longer identified with a political entity or an ethnic group.” Nothing in the NT says that the nation of Israel has been permanently cast off, but this assumption seems to be justified because “a true Jew is the one who is a Jew ‘inwardly.’”
I say, let the prophets speak. They knew that only Jews of faith were saved. They knew that the Jewish people would reject their Messiah. But they still pressed the point: God would restore his nation to their land under their Messiah forever.
The great loss of the non-dispensational interpretation in its selective use of Scripture is the failure to see the glory that God has promised to bring to himself when he melts the hearts of a stiff-necked nation to worship the King they crucified. This is not an insignificant part of what the Bible is all about and to overlook it is a dishonor to the prophets who spoke and the One they spoke for.