Full Episode 033: A Conversation with John MacArthur - Part 1 | Inside The Epicenter

Pastor John MacArthur joins Joel C. Rosenberg and Dr. Carl Moeller on the podcast to discuss evangelism to the Jewish people, how Israel’s establishment as a state in 1948 impacted his theology, and the significance of Apostle Paul’s ministry to both Jew and Gentile. MacArthur mentions Paul's chaining to a jailer and shares that he would like to be chained to Ben Shapiro. 

Joel also reveals the surprising number of Jews in the United States who consider themselves Christians.

Interested in watching Part 2? You can find it here: Full Episode 034: A Conversation With John MacArthur - Part 2

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- [Narrator] Coming up on this episode of "Inside the Epicenter".

- [Joel] The gospel is starting to connect with Jewish people in the early part of the 21st century in a way that it didn't for the last 19 or 20 centuries.

- [John] Of all the prophetic books in the Bible, Revelation's the easiest. Any other book like Ezekiel, or Daniel, or Isaiah, you're jumping around all over the place, but with Revelation, there's this really tight chronology. You start out with the introduction, the outline is given there, and then you see the church, and then you see the church in Heaven, and then you see the war machine in Heaven warming up, and then you see the judgments on Earth, and then you see Christ return, and then you see the Kingdom, and then you see the new Heavens and the new Earth. How simple is that? The chronology of Revelation, and I think it was as if God was putting it all together in an unmistakable flow so that it's really crazy to miss what is patently obvious.

- [Joel] Well, and yet certainly Jesus used parables to obfuscate to those who weren't gonna believe. I think the confusion that I struggle with as a younger generation of people interested in these biblical concepts, is that I'm not thinking about people who are not well-versed in the scriptures or not carefully studying the scriptures. Okay, but that's where we are. I've always believed, John, you and I, 10 years ago or so, whenever we had this conversation before, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to update this, it's been a while

- [John] Me too. Thank you. since you and I have sat down and chatted. But I think, it doesn't bother me that everybody in the church doesn't get Israel. I don't think that Israel was reborn prophetically in 1948 because the church got it. I don't think that it will be redeemed ultimately, because everybody in the church is gonna get it. God is moving sovereignly, powerfully. And I wish that more in the church, certainly in church leadership and theological leadership understood it, but this won't thwart God's will.

- [John] It's a brilliant point. Anybody who's a Calvinist should acknowledge that the church doesn't decide who's gonna be saved and neither does the church decide the salvation of Israel in the future. So your only point of contact with the divine plan is what does the scripture say? We don't need it to figure a strategy out to save Israel. I mean, we want to give the gospel to Jew and Gentile and everybody on the planet, but we don't need a strategy. We don't need an evangelical strategy to convert Israel. Boy, when God moves on them and they look on Him whom they've pierced and mourn for Him as an only Son and a fountain of cleansing is opened up, as Zachariah said, then it will happen.

- [Joel] And one of the things that the Joshua Fund has done is, we funded a project several years ago through Life Way research, the Southern Baptist Research Arm and we did this massive benchmark survey. We wanted to understand how millennial evangelicals either differ or are similar with their parents and their grandparents on a range of theological issues, including Israel, including ministry and missions and so forth. One of the things we found in that, because we didn't allow the respondent to say, "I'm an evangelical." We just asked you four national association of evangelical questions and if you strongly agreed with each four, we classify you as an evangelical and we go on with the survey. And then what was interesting about that, once you know that you've got this big sample size and that they've all said, "We strongly agree with these four basic essential points." Now we know what you basically believe theologically. We asked a simple question then, "Do you have any Jewish parents or grandparents?" Why did we ask that? Because we already know they're a believer, but we're not assessing whether they were walking with Jesus closely or whatever, but we're just, what do you believe? And then we just wanna know, "are you ethnically Jewish?" What did we find? What we found was something so stunning. We didn't release it for several months because we didn't believe it. We found that there's 871,000 Evangelical Christians just in the United States who are from a Jewish heritage. Now, if you ask in a phone poll, "Are you a Jewish Christian?" "Are you a Hebrew Christian?" "Are you a Messianic Jew?" There's a lot of terms that don't resonate with a range of individuals. They may be that, technically, they don't think of themselves that way. So we didn't ask that. We just asked, "What do you believe?" "Do you have Jewish parents or grandparents?" 871,000 of them. A lot of them go to your congregation, a lot of them... my father, has an Orthodox Jewish background, I don't mean 871,000. And I'm just saying they're in the churches. They're not in congregation-

- [John] No, sure. No, we have a lot of them here.

- [Carl] Yeah. I mean this Southern California was basically one of the birthplaces of Jewish events. The American board of missions to the Jews started here. Moshe Rosa, Rosa, Martin Rosen. He was a little high school boy in this church.

- [Joel] Oh, is that, I didn't realize that.

- [John] He grew up in this church, Harold Sevener, do you know that name?

- [Joel] No, I don't know that name.

- [John] Harold Sevener was the main guy in the American board of missions to the Jews, which had their main headquarters, just a few miles from here.

- [Joel] Interesting.

- [Carl] Wow.

- [John] And so we had all those who were leading the Jewish evangelism effort in the area, Marty Wolf, have you met Marty Wolf?

- [Joel] I haven't met him, no.

- [John] Another Jewish friend of mine since, since we were kids and he's been a missionary with Israel in mind for his whole life and so we were at the heart of all of that. In fact, I remember there are a number of campuses around here that were dominated by Jewish students and I would go speak and I would get harassed. The Jewish Christians would ask me to come and speak and the American board of mission to the Jews would do that, but there were times when people threw Molotov cocktails through the window of their office over in north Hollywood.

- [Joel] Wow.

- [John] So we took our stand with them early on at Grace Church and as a result of that, many of those who came to Christ ended up at Grace Church.

- [Joel] Wow. That's encouraging.

- [John] So we've had a large part of our population of people through the years.

- [Joel] Well think about that, if you take that number or something close to it, 871,000 and you work at what's going on in Europe, what's going on in Israel, what's going on in Brazil. We believe today at the Josh fund, there are roughly a million Jewish followers of Jesus in the world. In a world of about 16 or 17 million Jewish people. That's a dramatic change that most even Chosen People ministries, Jews for Jesus, other ministries didn't realize how widespread, because they're hard to capture or quantify, but this is opened a door that, the gospel is starting to connect with Jewish people in the early part of the 21st century in a way that it didn't for the last 19 or 20 centuries.

- [John] Well, and that is not

- [Joel] I find it, incredibly encouraging

- [John] surprising because the whole point that Paul makes in Colossians and Ephesians is that the church is Jew and Gentile and I think we're happy with the Gentile part, but we forget about the Jewish part and that's why Paul said to the Romans, he said "a partial hardening has happened to Israel." Not only is it partial, but it's temporary because it's only until the fullness of the Gentile. So that's a partial hardening and a temporary hardening, which means that there are going to be Jews in the church and when the church has such as complete, then he goes back to the finished work that he's planned for Israel. So look, I think we miss the point, if we don't see God actively saving Jews throughout all of the history of the church, because that is what the church is. That's the one New Man. That's the Body. It was tough for Paul. I mean, Paul trying to convince the Jews that the Gentiles were equal, got him in a lot of trouble,

- [Carl] Certainly did.

- [John] Remember in acts 21, they tried to kill him in a mob, a mob act of violence to kill him for suggesting... And there was a mix of nonbelievers and believers in Jesus and they, the mob wanted to kill him for even suggesting that God would accept Gentiles the way he accepted Jews and it was that that got him to Festus and Felix and Agrippa and finally to Rome and finally his head chopped off, and he says in Ephesians, I'm a prisoner of Jesus Christ for the sake of you Gentiles. It's my ministry to Gentiles that got me into jail because the Jews were so irate about that.

- [Joel] Well, and if I could, just for a brief second, take us on a little bit of a detour, just at the Joshua fund, you know, we have this unique philosophy of... I consider it unique in ministry of both end. To bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.

- [John] Of course.

- [Joel] And, you know I think that models after what Jesus himself did, you know, went to Samaria, which we would consider today, a hostile territory, if you will. What do you think about the whole dynamic between having to choose sides in the church? You're either on this side or the other side.

- [John] I think that defies the whole point of Paul's calling. Paul's calling was to go to the Gentiles and then to declare to the Jew and the Gentile that they were one in Christ. Just imagine the difficulty of that after millennia of hostility and hatred and part of it, you could understand because God frequently used Gentile nations to punish Israel, so the hate escalated, and they had plenty of history that they could rehearse when they got around the Passover table or in any meal about how horrible the Gentiles had been to them.

- [Joel] And the old Testament scriptures, the Hebrew scripture did say to separate yourselves from the nations.

- [John] Well of course, they have

- [Joel] So if you don't shift to a new covenant thinking,

- [John] Right.

- [Joel] you were thinking I'm not even supposed to have any contact. I mean, that's what Peter is thinking of Jesus, but he thought maybe I'm not supposed to have any contact.

- [John] So you had that separation and then you had the hostility on top of that.

- [Joel] Right.

- [John] And now the Lord says to Paul, "okay, go fix that." And that was a disastrous effort if made in the human flesh. And Paul said that, you know, the rest of his life, what did he do? He preached to the Gentiles and took the fury and the heat of the Jews, but everywhere he went, he started in a synagogue because he knew that they were a part of God's sovereign, And he wanted to try. He loved his people enough to say, "I'm not going to force you to believe this, but I want you to hear it. You have to be able to hear it. How can you believe it, if you haven't even heard it? I have to tell it to you."

- [John] So I think Paul is my model and Paul had to embrace both. I mean, he said "my heart's desire is for the salvation of Israel," he even went so far as to say, "I could wish myself a curse, if that would produce the salvation of Israel." But at the same time, he was an apostle to the Gentiles. So you don't get to pick, you know.

- [Carl] That's brilliant because, you know, we see the same thing and we see, unfortunately the church gets off into these predetermined political categories of dealing with either the Arabs or the Jewish, the Israel side of things. And I think there's such a message that you're talking about, which is, is to say, "look, this isn't the way that Jesus operated. This isn't the way Paul operated."

- [John] No.

- [Carl] You know this is the way we should maybe return to that.

- [John] Well, in our situation, for, I don't know how many years, maybe 5, 6, 7 years, every sermon preached in this pulpit is translated into Arabic and sent into the middle east.

- [Joel] I think I told you before we started, the Joshua fund uses and distributes copies of the John MacArthur study Bible, commentary Bible in Arabic.

- [John] In Arabic.

- [Joel] Yeah.

- [John] Guess what? It's in Arabic. It's been an Arabic for a few years and they're just now putting it into Hebrew. Well, so we got ahead of the game. We started with the Arabs.

- [Joel] So Paul's calling, since you're closer to Paul, right would it be, holy spirit said to Ananias, "that Paul's calling was to the Gentiles and Kings and then the sons of Israel." It wasn't either, or, but there was a priority. Kings as part of an element that most people, you know, leaders is something that some people in the church think should we even have contact with our government leaders and in what way? But Paul, Paul had the full package there didn't he?

- Well, he understood that even in God's purpose and God's plan, the reaching leaders was strategic and that God had ordained that.

- [Joel] Yeah, sure.

- [Joel] And at least

- [John] and that's why when

- [Joel] They need to hear how

- [John] When he went, well, he never let them off the hook. I mean, whether it's Felix Festus or Agrippa, he was pretty tough and straightforward and giving them the gospel and sharing his testimony in the Book of Acts and, you know, all the-

- [Joel] Tough well, tough I would say tough in terms of courageous, but he was also very gracious.

- [John] And I mean, tough in the sense that there was no bending,

- [Joel] No, no, no.

- [John] There was no sense of shame over what he was saying,

- [Joel] That's right.

- [John] What he was asking of them and that he was indicting them for their sin and unbelief and that even when he writes from prison in Rome to the Ephesians and the Colossians, he talks about how the saints in Caesar's household greet you, so he was having an evangelistic influence, even as a prisoner in that environment. That'd be, it'd be tough to be connected to a Roman soldier, but it'd be tougher to be the Roman soldier connected to the Apostle.

- [Joel] Absolutely I remember Dr. Howard Hendricks, use to talk about it. Okay, he was chained to these two guards every few hours, but they were chained to him. If you got two more guys that we brought the four spiritual laws and just walk them through or whatever.

- [John] You know, you mentioned that a little early in our conversation. I had that thought, you know, if I could get chained to anybody, maybe I'd like to be chained for a week to Ben Shapiro.

- [Joel] So in the next episode, I really would love to have that conversation

- [John] Just keep working on it.

- [Joel] Why do you think Ben Shapiro asked John MacArthur of all Pastors to talk to about the Bible, about Israel, about Jesus. So that's what that's gonna be parts two. Let's stick with this one for the moment. I love that conversation. Can't wait for that. So I want to go back to a point that you and I discussed a decade or so ago, and that is the reason I interviewed you at that time was you're in a relatively small handful of Pastors, like two Pastors that was alive on May 14th, 1948, and remembers what they thought about, what they were taught about. To be in, to live in a season, to grow up in a season where Israel was not a sovereign country and I would love to just recap some of that. If you'd share it a little bit about what you were taught, your father was a very wonderful Pastor himself and you come from a rich theological tradition. I think five generations is what I recall. You lived right at the scene of there was no Israel and it seemed kind of crazy, especially with the Holocaust. And then now here's Israel. Would you talk, especially to younger people listening to this podcast, What's that like going through a moment of history that's prophetic in your view?

- [John] Let me back up

- [Joel] Sure.

- [John] To this reality and go back to my grandfather. My grandfather had total confidence in scripture, whether it was rehearsing past history that could be validated or whether it was speaking prophetically about the future and for reasons that I don't know, because I was too young, my grandfather died before Israel became a nation, but he wrote a tract and distributed it. It was called why you can't rub out the Jew. That was, not only prescient now, but that was based solely on what he saw in scripture. He didn't live to see the nation. He didn't live to see any of the history beyond that and uh, but he believed the scripture. And that of all the things that I inherited, that level of confidence and his accuracy with regard to that, because I, you know, I began to see that what he said in that tract was actually starting to unfold before my very eyes and I remember having a conversation with my dad and it went sort of like this, "have you ever met a Hittite, an Ameritte, a Hittite, a Jebusite or any other ite? The only ite you've ever met is an Israel. So why are they still here? To ignore the reality that I remember there was a conference in Europe with John Stott as a speaker, and somebody asked him, "what is the significance of the rebirth of the nation Israel, biblically?" And he said, "it has no significance." That's bizarre because-

- [Joel] And it's John Stott, it's not like, it's not a liberal, right? I mean, this is my point from the beginning of this,

- [Joel] We would agree with him and appreciate him so deeply.

- [John] I'm sure.

- [Joel] So much. And you think, how has that disconnect hospital?

- [John] Right.

- [Carl] This is Carl Moeller, executive director of the Joshua fund. Scripture tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Would you take a moment right now to pray for our staff at the Joshua fund, as they work to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. We're in a battle against the evil one and your prayers make all the difference.

- [John] I was sort of birthed into ministry in an environment where my father and grandfather believed the Bible and they stuck their neck out on things that didn't seem like they were possible.

- [Joel] Yeah. Yeah.

- [John] That's what scripture said, so that's what they preach.

- [Joel] So you have now grown up, not just literally grown up, but in your ministry, from you started here at Grace community in the early 70s, I believe, or late 60s?

- [John] 69.

- [Joel] 69, okay. So this was two years after the six day war and you've seen the trajectory of the growth of Israel and the collapse of the Soviet union, a million Jews come down and you've seen a lot happen. I'm not saying each one of those in some microscopic sensationalistic way, each is prophetic, but the general trend is Israel's growing, Jews are returning. That seems like a great apologetic to the church, as well as to atheists and agnostics.

- [John] It's monumental. It's monumental.

- [Joel] And It seems like some of the great preachers are, are missing.

- [John] No, its,

- [Joel] The great apologetic.

- [John] It's monumental. How do you get this many Jews back to the land? I mean, you could say that was one of the reasons why the Lord allowed what happened to the USSR to happen, to get people back to the land. Obviously they're not redeemed yet, we haven't seen that and we're not talking about a converted Israel or a saved Israel. They're still under divine judgment until they recognize their Messiah.

- [Joel] Right now, we believe there's only about 30,000 Jewish believers in Israel, but that's up from 23, 23 in 1948. So there's growth, it's not the same as in the United States where Jewish people are interacting with a lot of evangelicals. There haven't been that many believers in Jesus in the land and so there haven't been a lot of, you know. Conversations.

- [John] But you also are having an impact through the Joshua fund with Pastors in the land, Jewish Pastors in the land of Israel who are building churches. There's Israel college of the Bible. We at the Master seminary, the Masters university have a connection with them. Masters university has a campus in Israel where students go every semester so that they can learn the word of God in the land of the Bible and so they can... Also have-

- [Joel] It's the Israel Bible exchange, IBEX.

- [John] IBEX.

- [Joel] And a dear friend of mine, who I discipled when he first came to faith and then sent him off to Dallas seminary, he just became the new executive director of IBEX in the land,

- [John] Did he?

- [Joel] Yeah so I just spoke two Friday nights in a row to the students that you have over there, right this moment. It's very encouraging.

- [John] Well, I know, it's an incredible things for them and, you know, we want them to see not only the land for its historical value biblically, but we want them to see the Jewish people and to get a heart for them and there's not a greater mission field in the world, I don't believe, because there's a certain sense in which you're guaranteed success.

- [Joel] Well, I say that we are, are the Jewish people are the alpha and omega of world missions, right. He came to his own, his own received him not and yet we are heading towards a Romans 11.

- [Joel] I have to talk about one other person in my life, and his pictures right there, Dr. Charles Feinberg.

- [Joel] Oh man. Yes.

- [John] He was my personal mentor and discipler and he had, he studied to be a Rabbi. I don't know if you know his story.

- [Joel] Yeah we do.

- [John] He started to be a Rabbi.

- [Carl] I studied under his sons, at Trinity.

- [John] Yeah, sure.

- [Both] John and Paul.

- [John] They were my buddies in the seminary, but Dr. Feinberg believed everything that the Bible said and most passionately, everything had said about Israel. He was so fascinated, he read through the entire Bible, four times a year. He taught himself languages in months. He was just the most brilliant guy and he was so committed to everything that the scripture said about Israel based upon a fixed immovable Hermaneutic. I remember we were in Israel one time and he invited me to be with him at a conference. He spoke and I spoke, and the President of Westminster spoke. We were talking about Israel's future and prophecy. The President of Westminster got up and went to Isaiah 9:6, "government would be upon his shoulders" and he said, "the question is, is the government of your life on the shoulders of Christ?" And I watched Fineberg faint at my side. Then he went on to describe that all the promises to Israel were not given to the church. And Feinberg was so furious. He got up the next time. And he said, "so you had to come all the way to Jerusalem, all the way to a conference in Israel, gearing to look at the Bible and the prophecy of Israel to tell the Jews that all they get is the curses and the Gentiles get the blessing?" He couldn't restrain himself. So I came out of that kind of influence from Feinberg. His wife was one of the Jews in Fiddler On The Roof. That community of Jews, yeah. So they had some very deep roots and he was an amazing scholar. So I was literally caged by him for a right view of the future of Israel.

- [Joel] While you came with one, but you got it deepened.

- [John] No, and that was why I wanted that to be enriched by the guy that I knew understood it better than anyone else. He'd written commentaries on the minor prophets. He'd written a commentary on Ezekiel. He'd argued against every amillennial and post-millennial book that had been written and I wanted all that.

- [Joel] Yeah. I love it, John, thank you so much. I think this, we should come to the end of this first round.

- [Carl] First part, first part and I just want to say again, thank you so much for your commitment to the word of God and for the way in which it informs all of this, that there is no better student of the scriptures than yourself when it comes to applying for practical reasons, how the word of God is living and active and able to make changes like this into people's lives and thank you so much. I appreciate it.

- [John] My joy, I'll tell you being 54 years in ministry here and never flinching because I never needed to about things I said the first year I got here about the future of Israel.

- [Joel] Sometimes I have to go check the date of these messages because they feel very contemporary and yet, and I haven't seen you change.

- [John] Well, look how the global, look how the global world is shaping up, to look like the 13th chapter of revelation.

- [Carl] We're going to get there in our next episode.

- [Joel] All right. Thank you.

- [Carl] Thank you so much, John.

- [John] Oh my pleasure.

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