Monday, June 05, 2006

Vos on the Purpose of Israel's Theocracy

I found some useful quotes from Geerhardus Vos, on the eschatological purpose of Israel, as a theocratic nation-state. I think what he says is very helpful as we try to harmonize or relate the Old Testament revelation with the New Testament revelation...
Nor was it merely a question of teaching religion for the present world. A missionary institution the theocracy never was intended to be in its Old Testament state. The significance of the unique organization of Israel can be rightly measured only by remembering that the theocracy typified nothing short of the perfected kingdom of God, the consummate state of Heaven. In this ideal state there will be no longer any place for the distinction between church and state. [Biblical Theology, 126]
As stated above, the abode of Israel in Canaan typified the heavenly, perfected state of God's people. Under these circumstances the ideal of absolute conformity to God's law of legal holiness had to be upheld. Even though they were not able to keep this law in the Pauline, spiritual sense, yea, even though they were unable to keep it externally and ritually, the requirement could not be lowered. When apostacy on a general scale took place, they could not remain in the promised land. When they disqualified themselves for typifying the state of holiness, they ipso facto disqualified themselves for typifying that of blessedness, and had to go into captivity. [Biblical
Theology
, 127]
The eschatological idea influencing the constitution of the theocracy becomes dependent on the interaction of the type and the antitype. The future state imposes its own stamp on the theocracy, an actual institution of Israel. The theocratic structure projects its own character into the picture of the future. Heaven reflected itself on Israel and Israel became part of the future. The type inevitably influences the conception of the antitype. The future is depicted in terms drawn from the present, earthly, material reality. There is somewhat of the shadowy, inadequate character of the prefiguration that passes over into the description of what the eschatological will be like when it comes. The antitype impresses its stamp upon the theocratic structure and imparts to it somewhat of its transcendent, absolute character. The theocracy has something ideal or unattainable about it. Its plan, as conceived by the law, hovers over the actual life of Israel. The theocracy in the idea transcends its embodiment in experience. [Eschatology of the OT, 117-8]
To summarize this in other words: it was impossible for the people of that time to separate the essence from the form. The essence grasped in the form is different from the form being grasped at the expense of the essence. We find the picture of the eschatological state in terms of the holy land, Jerusalem, the rule over the nations, familiar offices and organization and rites, and temporal blessedness. Nonetheless, all this, while expressed in similar terms, was felt to be different from the present because it was represented as eternal. To the mind of God, all earthly apparatus employed is purely symbolical. To the people, and in part to the prophets, the symbolical nature was not always perspicuous. [Eschatology of the OT, 120]

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