Israel My Glory In Depth: Interview with Dr. Bruce Baker
How you read your Bible matters. When people reject what God has clearly said to make the Bible fit their own agenda, they misunderstand Him, and their misguided theology leads to trouble. That’s why people that called themselves Christians have done some terrible things throughout history, including persecution of God’s Chosen People, Israel.
Today we see confusion about the Kingdom of God in the church. This is not a simple aspect of theology to gloss over. It should be a great source of hope for every believer, but many today can’t find that hope because they have too many unanswered questions: “Is the Kingdom here now? Is it a future kingdom? Is there no kingdom at all?”
Bruce Baker brilliantly covered the interpretation of Scripture’s teaching on the Kingdom of God in Israel My Glory magazine. He joins the show to speak with Chris about the importance of knowing what the Bible teaches about this essential part of our faith. Grow in your knowledge of Scripture and God’s Kingdom with Bruce and Chris this week!
Take a look at Bruce Baker’s article, “Kingdom Now?“
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. And with me is our host and teacher Chris Katulka. We want to invite you to join our free online conference, Awaken. That's March 4th and 5th. Awaken will open your eyes to God's Word and equip you for the coming day of the Lord, as well as the rapture of the church, and the restoration of God's kingdom. Visit lookup.foi.org to register or to learn more. That's lookup.foi.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I love our online conferences because we get to reach people all around the world. I love our live conferences, but they usually require people to have to fly or come to our location. Our live online conferences are a fantastic way to connect with Friends of Israel and our great biblical teaching. So Steve, I'm really looking forward to the Awaken conference.
Chris Katulka: Now, today actually, is all about Israel My Glory. It's our Israel My Glory In Depth episode, where we're looking at our most recent issue of our award-winning Christian magazine. Now with me today will be Dr. Bruce Baker, who earned his PhD from Baptist Bible Seminary. He's a former pastor of Washington County Bible Church in Brenham, Texas. And he's the author of For Thou Art With Me, Biblical Help for the Terminally Ill and Those Who Love Them. And he's going to be talking about his article that's in Israel My Glory called Kingdom Now.
Steve Conover: But first, in the news. The Jerusalem Post reports Salman Kablan, a 15-year-old Druze Arab teen, along with his friends, started an initiative to help the Holocaust survivors in their city learn how to use computers. They train them to learn social media, order products online, and connect with loved ones. Kablan whose family are the only ethnic Druze Arabs in their city of Arad say he already knew a few elderly people, some of whom are Holocaust survivors in his neighborhood. He stated, "I would visit them and check on them. I felt their pain and that I had to do something for them."
Chris Katulka: Steve, the Druze people are an amazing people. They're Israeli, those who live in Israel, the Druze who live in Israel are Israeli. And most of them are actually up on the border of Israel and Syria. And I'm going to tell you, they make some of the most amazing food up there. They're incredibly hospitable people. The Druze have a Abrahamic faith, but they would never really identify themselves as Jewish, or Muslim, or Christian. It's a very ancient faith and a very interesting one. But I'm very, very thankful that Salman Kablan would dedicate his time to the Jewish people who had suffered through the Holocaust.
I really pray, especially knowing this is where we're recording this the day after the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I pray that God raises up more Israeli Arabs, like Salman Kablan with a heart to serve their Jewish neighbors in need.
Chris Katulka: I love Israel My Glory In Depth episodes, when we dedicate an entire show to our latest issue of Israel My Glory. Now listen, if you're driving in your car and you're listening on the radio, or you're tuned into our Friends of Israel Today podcast, which you can listen to on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, and you're wondering what is Israel My Glory? Well, I'm excited to introduce you to our award-winning Christian magazine. Listen, if you love good Bible teaching, and you care about Israel and the Jewish people, then I want to encourage you to subscribe to Israel My Glory. And here's why:
When you sign up, you'll get a one year free subscription of our bimonthly publication. So you're going to want to stay tuned, and I'm going to share with you in a moment how you can receive your one year free subscription to Israel My Glory. Now, this recent issue of our magazine is important, because the theme is, "How to read your Bible." The difference is between literal and grammatical interpretation. And here's why this is important. The way that you read the scriptures will determine how you understand God. It will determine your salvation in Christ, the Christian walk, and even the prophetic truths of Christ's return.
And how you read the Bible will even impact your view of Israel and the Jewish people. As Lorna Simcox, the editor in chief of Israel My Glory said, she writes, "We believe that the Bible is meant to be read literally, the way we read the newspaper so everyone can understand it. And when the scripture says a word like Israel, it means Israel. It does not mean the church. As a first grade teacher, so aptly puts," she writes, "if you don't understand what you're reading, then there's no point to reading at all."
God in his wisdom, never intended to hide some mystical meaning or mystical text below the words of the scripture. He's not trying to use some subliminal messages in the words of the Bible. The reality is God is speaking plainly to us, so that we can clearly know the plan he has so graciously laid out and made known to his creation. And this is why the Bible is so special and should be read just as Lorna mentioned in a plain and literal way. David Levy, who authored one of the articles in this issue of Israel My Glory, he writes this, and it's very fascinating. He says, "Voltaire, the famous French philosopher, once called the Prince of Infidels, reportedly said in 1776, that within 100 years the Bible would be a forgotten Relic found only in museums."
Fifty eight years after Voltaire's death, his house was being used, I love this, by the Evangelical Society of Geneva, which distributed Bibles throughout Europe and the printing presses on which he printed his revulsion of Christianity, where they were printing the Holy Scriptures. No other book is like the Bible. It was written by 40 men from all walks of life. Kings, priests, prophets, fishermen, and farmers, over a period of 1600 years. Some writers were highly educated, like Moses and the apostle Paul. While others had no formal education. Yet more than 3000 times, these men claimed what they wrote came directly from God.
So what is it that makes the Bible different, continually relevant on the myriads of issues, and the bestselling book of all time? Well simply put, the Bible is God's Word. It's the Book of books. It has been the wellspring of truth and accuracy for more than 3,500 years. There's another reason it's important for Christians to read the Bible literally, it's truth. Truth has no moorings anymore. We live in a world where truth from the scriptures is under assault, but everyone else's truth is okay, as long as it's not truth from the Bible.
The result of relative truth is that there is no longer any absolute truth to guide us. As the Bible says, "Everyone does what's right in their own eyes." Reading the Bible from a literal perspective, while taking it to account the history surrounding each book guides us to God's truth, not man's personal truth, but God's truth. And when man becomes the arbiter of truth, we actually do something interesting. We like to exchange the truth of God for our own pleasures. And our own pleasures typically lead to a lie. Just listen to what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1, starting in verse 21.
He said, "For, although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him. But their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over to sinful desires of their heart, the sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another, they exchanged," here it is, listen, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the created things rather than the creator who is forever praised. Amen."
When God's truth from Scripture isn't front and center in our lives through the literal reading of the Bible, we can begin to exchange the truth of God for a lie. It happened to the Israelites. Moses was only gone for 40 days on the top of Mount Sinai receiving the law and because the Israelites were disconnected from the truth of God and his law, they took matters into their own hands and they created their own truth in the form of a golden calf. Do you remember that story? Truth matters now more than ever in our culture. Even truth about Israel and the Jewish people.
In church history, the Jewish people suffered great antisemitism, under the church. It all boiled down to this, bad interpretation of the Bible. The church thought that they were the new Israel and that God was moving on from the Israel of the Old Testament, because of their rejection of Jesus. Some of the sermons, if you read them of the prominent figures in the early church were filled with Jew hatred. Even in the 20th century, my grandmother who grew up in the Catholic church said that she always heard people calling Jews “Christ killers.” That's in the 20th century.
Some argue that Hitler tapped into the writings of theologians who slandered the Jewish people. Now, if you read the Bible plainly, you see that God, he's not casting Israel away and the Jewish people away. Actually, if you read the Bible, literally, you see that God has a bright future for Israel and the Jewish people. He's not done with them. As Paul writes in the end of Romans 11, 'That even though Israel and the Jewish people are the enemies of the gospel now, the gifts and call of God are irrevocable." Which means God, through the Messiah, Jesus, will be gracious to Israel to fulfill the promises that he made to the Jewish people, because those promises cannot be undone.
But you wouldn't see that truth in the scriptures unless you read your Bible plainly and literally. And so how you read the Bible does matter, because God doesn't change. Just listen to what Bruce Scott wrote in one of his articles in this recent issue, he says, "People change all the time. God, however, never changes. Consequently, his Word remains the same century after century. What God loved 3,000 years ago, he still loves today. What he despised 3,000 years ago, he still despises. God's not fickle, unpredictable, unreliable, temperamental, or inconsistent. When he makes a promise, he's bound by his character to keep it. So we can read his Word confidently, knowing it will stand the test of time."
God can change his plans and programs as he sovereignly wills, but he cannot alter his person. He is immutable and immutability means not capable or susceptible to change. In fact, God claims this attribute for himself. Malachi 3:6 says, "For I am the Lord, I do not change." No one else can truthfully make that statement. And Bruce actually goes on and he says, "Because God never changes, he cannot lie. He is the God of truth. He cannot deny his own nature. God is completely unlike Satan, whom Jesus called “a liar and the father of it," in John 8:44.
Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word, when read properly, is the ultimate source for truth in our lives today. And when we read the Bible literally, it even affects our understanding of God's coming kingdom. And that's why you need to stick around because we're going to have Dr. Bruce Baker on, in a moment, who's going to join us from the great state of Texas, to talk about his article, and God's coming kingdom.
But before we get to Dr. Baker, I want to encourage you right now to go to foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org, so that you can get a copy of this particular issue of Israel My Glory, How To Read The Bible. And on top of that, a one year free subscription to our award-winning Christian magazine. Listen, if you love great biblical teaching and you are interested in learning more about Israel and the Jewish people, and how that fits into God's overarching plan, you need to be a subscriber to Israel My Glory. To do that, it's really, really simple. You ready? Go to FOIradio.org, again FOIradio.org, sign up and receive a one year free subscription to our award-winning Christian magazine.
I am so glad to have Dr. Bruce Baker on the line with us from the great state of Texas. I lived in Texas for 10 years and I miss it greatly. But we're going to be talking about an article that Dr. Baker has in our most recent issue of Israel My Glory, which is called "Kingdom Now? It Depends On How You Read It". And so Dr. Baker, great to have you on the program, sir.
Dr. Bruce Baker: Well, thanks. It's a privilege to be with you.
Chris Katulka: Dr. Baker, we don't have that much time together. And so I want to get down to it. I want to know, the title of your article is "Kingdom Now? It Depends On How You Read It". Can you define for our audience what that means to you, when you talk about "Kingdom Now?"? And for our audience who might not be able to see the title, there's a question mark after "Kingdom Now?". So what does that mean, Dr. Baker?
Dr. Bruce Baker: Well, it depends on whether you take it as a figure of speech, or whether you take it as something that is literal and concrete. For instance, I used an illustration in my article, you can use the word “bomb” to describe either a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, or the home run hitter, hitting a bomb to left field, or the latest movie being a bomb at the box office. Each one of those is a legitimate use of the word “bomb.” But it depends upon the context, whether you take it as a real bomb that explodes, or whether it's illustrative of something else. And that's what I mean when I say it depends on how you read it. You read it very literally. Well all of them are literal, but what does the context do as far as it's actuality goes.
Chris Katulka: I believe you and the Friends of Israel hold to the same view that the kingdom, when we talk about the kingdom and we hear people use the term “kingdom” a lot. "Lord build your kingdom now, build your kingdom through us." The titles and phrases like that. But I believe from your article, you're trying to communicate a different idea about God's kingdom, which is a kingdom that is coming, not here yet, but coming. Is that true?
Dr. Bruce Baker: Yes, it's absolutely true. In fact, we see that in Psalm 2, excuse me, I apologize that Psalm 110, "The Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Now, what is he saying here? He's saying that the King is coming. God is going to make him the King. But only after he makes his enemies a footstool for his feet. So he's a king, but he is a King in waiting.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, you use that term, and I like that, because I want to get to that in a moment, the King in waiting. You use that term in your article. But I want to get kind of a idea from you on what the evangelical consensus is on kingdom. Should it matter that a Christian cares whether the kingdom is now, whether the kingdom is in the future, or whether there's no kingdom at all? For the Christian driving in their car right now, or listening on the podcast, why should that matter to them, Dr. Baker?
Dr. Bruce Baker: Well, it matters because depending on what you believe about the kingdom, depends upon your whole outlook of life. If you believe that the kingdom is now, and the obligation of the believer is try and make the Kingdom now, to bring about the kingdom glory that has been promised. But if you think that it's all future, then what you do is you remove that from this world, and you push it toward the future. And we see this most vividly in a Christian's approach to politics.
If you believe that we are here to bring in the kingdom now, then we are going to use political means, as much as possible, to bring about the kingdom blessings. In other words, you're going to be more concerned about the poor, and you're going to be more concerned about social ethics, and this type of thing. Whereas if you believe the kingdom is future, then you believe that the job right now is not to try and change the world, that that's a fool's hope. That the object now is to bring people into the kingdom.
I like to think of it this way. When I go and I teach in various countries, I have a passport. And my passport is to the United States. I belong to the kingdom of the United States. The problem is, I am not in the United States when I'm overseas. When I'm overseas, I don't get involved in the political problems of the nation where I'm teaching. That's not what I'm called to do. I'm called to bring people to Jesus Christ, to make them citizens of the same kingdom that I'm a citizen of. Pretty much everybody believes this, that the object of a Christian was not to make the world a better place, but it was to bring people into that kingdom that was coming in the future.
But now people, because they think the kingdom is now, are trying to make the world a better place. And so they're very involved, not with evangelism, which is what we're called to do, but with making this world a nicer place to live, to bringing in the kingdom. But that's not what we're called to do. I think it was Ironside that talked about polishing the brass on a sinking ship. The Bible predicts the end of all these kingdoms in the world in very vivid terms. We're not going to make this world a better place. This world belongs, it lies in the lap of the wicked one. What we do now is we try and bring people into the future kingdom, the kingdom that's coming.
Chris Katulka: Dr. Baker, my mind goes to Acts 3, when Peter is preaching to the Jewish people and he lets them know, "To repent, turn back that your sins may be blotted out, that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, the Messiah appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive." I feel like this is exactly what you're talking about, "Whom heaven must receive, until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago."
That the king came, Jesus is the king. He is the Davidic King. But he's currently sitting at the right hand of the Father, because the earth is not his kingdom just yet. It's not, like you said, that his enemies have not been made his footstool that we see in Psalms 110. But that ultimately, through the repentance of Israel, Peter is saying here, that there's going to be a day when Jesus does return and establish a kingdom on earth. When you say there's a King in waiting, is that what you're talking about there?
Dr. Bruce Baker: That's exactly what I'm talking about. And that explains why the kingdoms of this world rise up against the rightful King. When we read in the Royal Psalms, for instance, in Psalm 2, "The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and his Anointed One." Why? Well, because they want to hold onto their kingdom. They don't want another kingdom coming in and elbowing them out of the way. That's why, in fact, when we see Revelation 1, we like to think of the coming of Christ as something that's joyous. And it is for the believer.
But when we read in Revelation 1 about the coming of Christ, the whole, “He is coming with the clouds and the eyes will see him, even those who pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” In other words, when Christ comes back, it'll be a time of mourning for the kingdoms of this earth, because they've been overthrown. And they must bow the knee to the rightful King of this world.
Chris Katulka: You know, my mind again goes to when in the gospel of John, and we'll have to end here, but in the gospel of John, Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this world." That doesn't mean that his kingdom is some spiritual kingdom. His kingdom is literally not of the world kingdom, that his kingdom is coming. The everlasting kingdom that was promised in the book of Daniel, when the Son of man is given all authority and power in dominion. That's the kingdom coming, and we look forward to that day.
Dr. Baker, I am so thankful that you were able to take some time to be with us today. We so appreciate it and value your teaching and your ministry, sir. Thank you so much.
Dr. Bruce Baker: Thank you for having me.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us today and thanks to Bruce Baker for being with us. Chris, tell our listeners where we're headed next week.
Chris Katulka: We're going to be looking, Steve, at something very exciting. It was an idea, I believe that you came up with, at one of our meetings about the Year of Jubilee. Something that we see in the law of God, in the book of Leviticus, an amazing time when God proclaims liberty throughout the land. So we're going to be looking for the next two weeks at the Year of Jubilee.
Steve Conover: We're looking forward to it. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at FOIradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide, evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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