Written by Robert W. Miles on Aug. 21, 2016
In the study of History one does their best to refrain from presupposing the reasons for an individual’s decisions since bias has a way of rewriting instead of recording events. Yeshua says in Matthew 7:2 “…with the judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” The motives of historical characters should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt, in as much as this author would like to be given the same. Such is the case with Arno Clemens Gaebelein (1861 – 1945). Gaebelein, before becoming one of the foremost Dispensationalist Premillenialists of his time, started out by writing that “having a dispensation in which God is done with His people, or [they] are put on hold, doesn’t make sense, the way he understands Scripture, and that there is a future, physical Israel.” However the “sad part of this story is that he walks away from the [Messianic] movement.” Gaebelein wrote one of the most profound statements supporting Hebrew Christianity in 1896, and yet nine years later writes an anti-zionist speech, and in his autobiography goes out of his way to denounce his own previous beliefs on this subject. What would cause this significant change in position? Arno C. Gaebelein’s position on Messianic Judaism (Christian Judaism as he called it) changed radically due to the influence of John Nelson Darby’s teachings on dispensationalism taken to their logical, albeit extreme, conclusions.
Although born the 27th of August 1861 in Germany, A.C. Gaebelein starts his autobiography with the date he was born-again, the 31st of October 1879, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. From that day on, Gaebelein dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel, joined the Methodist church and taught himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Yiddish, church history and apologetics. By 1893 he was serving in New York City at the Hebrew Christian Mission and began the publication Tiqweth Israel – The Hope of Israel Monthly. By 1896, this publication was printed in English, German and Yiddish with about 5,000 to 8,000 of each. In the Nov-Dec issue of 1896 one of the best statements of Messianic Judaism was written under the heading, The Principles of the Hope of Israel Moment. When Gaebelein wrote this statement, he was holding weekly evangelistic meetings in the Jewish community in New York City and had just returned from a missionary trip to the Jews of Russia and other Eastern European countries. Due to the gravity of this “statement of faith” it has been included in total here:
The Hope of Israel Movement aims to bring the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to His brethren according to the flesh. We hold that Scriptural – not Talmudic or Rabbinical, still less Reformed – Judaism is as much as divine revelation as Christianity. The canon of the New Testament has no higher Divine authority than has that of the Old. Neither is complete without the other. Salvation is from the Jews, John iv:22. And the gospel is “to the Jew first,” Rom. i:18. The Jew is not a Gentile. The term “proselyte,” therefore, can never apply to the Jew. The promises of God are Israel’s Rom. ix:4, 5. Gentile believers are the real “proselytes,” once far off, now made nigh, Eph. ii:12, 13. The root of God’s good olive tree, Israel, bears us; not we the root, Rom. xi:17, 18. To “proselyte” the Jew, then, is to ignore and to reverse the Divine order.
The Jew has no need whatever of the organizations or institutions of historical (i.e. Gentile and denominational) Christianity. All he needs is personal, saving faith in his own Jewish Messiah, the Christ of God, nothing more. And all that was Divinely given him through Moses he has full liberty to retain and uphold as far as possible when he becomes a believer in Jesus Christ. This to us clearly follows from these Scriptural considerations:
- Abraham – the Divine pattern of the true Jew, as well as of the believing Gentile, Rom. iv:11, 12 – received circumcision as an everlasting covenant after he had believed God unto justification, Gen. xvii:9-14. God Himself added circumcision to Abraham’s faith. And thus Paul writes: “Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised,” I Cor. vii:18. This was the ruling of the apostle to the Gentiles in all the churches. (Compare Ezek. xliv:7, 9)
- The natural seed of Jacob shall not cease to be a nation before the Lord forever, Jerem. xxx:11, xxxi:35, 37; xlvi:28; Rom. xi:1, 29. This is God’s eternal purpose and the secret of Israel’s preservation. Even so at this present time – through the gospel – a remnant of the nation is being saved, according to the election of grace, Rom. xi:5. These saved Jews, to be a true remnant, should not surrender any of the Divinely appointed marks of the nation Israel. They should not be taught to un-Jew themselves.
- The Lord Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God. (Israel’s national election). Rom. xv:8. He came not to destroy, but to fulfill, the law. Jewish disciples of Christ, by the word of the Lord Himself, should not be taught to break or disregard one of these least commandments, Matt. v:17, 19. They should walk and live even as He lived among His own people, i.e. as true, conforming Jews (barring, of course, mere traditions of the elders and the commandments of men), 1 John ii:6.
- On and from the day of Pentecost myriads of Jewish believers were by the Holy Spirit baptized into fellowship with the glorified Christ. He did not cause or direct either the apostles or other Jewish believers to “forsake Moses.” Apostolic teaching and practice throughout the New Testament only show Jewish Christians “walking orderly and keeping the law.” Acts ii:46, 47; iii:1; vi:7; x:9; (chap. Xv:28, 29 by implication, clearly makes observance of all the laws and ordinances of Moses for Jewish believers a matter pleasing to the Holy Ghost); xvi:3; xviii:18; xx:16; xxi:17-26; xxiii:1; xxv:8.
- Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is also Son of Abraham and the Son of David. He is at once Head over all things to the church (built up of Jews and Gentiles), and the rightful and coming heir of David’s throne, which He will restore and occupy at His return from heaven, Luke i:32, 33; Acts xv:16; iii:21. Jesus has not surrendered or forfeited His distinctive claim to the throne of His (Jewish) ancestor, David, by ascending on high and becoming the glorified Head of His body, the church. No more should Jewish believers in Christ, being living members of His body, be made or taught to surrender anything which is Divinely ordered and appointed for Israel as God’s and Christ’s age-lasting and peculiar people.
Just three years later, in 1899, Gaebelein reversed course on these principles. The whole year was one of transition for Gaebelein, and Michael Stallard summarizes the two major changes. “Both [changes] related to Gaebelein’s understanding of and relationship to the church. First Gaebelein severed his relationship to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Second, he abandoned his beliefs concerning Messianic Judaism. Both of these developments revealed the change of his convictions concerning the nature of the church, including its distinction from the nation of Israel.” While the withdrawal from the Methodist denomination is a part of backdrop of Gaebelein’s rejection of Messianic Judaism, the reasons that Gaebelein gives are Scriptural in nature. He mentions in his own reasoning that the Principles were rejected when he “understood more fully the revealed truth as to the church” and that “the body is neither Jew nor Gentile” and that “It will be far different after . . . the true Church is completed.”  He later goes on to say that while he still held to the truths concerning
Israel’s future regeneration and national restoration . . . [but that] the principles which teach that a Jew who has believed in Christ and is therefore a member of His body, the church, should or may continue as under the law, practice circumcision, keep the seventh day (Saturday), eat only clean food as commanded by Moses and keep the different feasts, the writer does no longer believes to be scriptural. The great revelations of the Lord in the Church Epistles concerning His body are entirely ignored in these principles. The following passages make it very clear that these ordinances are no longer binding or even existing for a believer in Christ, be he Jew or Gentile.
Gaebelein then refers to passages written to Gentile believers in the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians which talk of the equality between Jews and Gentiles: Eph. 2:14-18, Col. 2:16-17, 3:10-11. But as with many Scriptures, what is written is just as important as to whom it is written, and Galatians and Ephesians are both explicitly written to Gentile believers (Eph. 3:1, Gal. 5:2). Michael L. Brown writes that while these Scriptures most assuredly say that “in terms of salvation, Jesus the Messiah broke down the wall of separation so that, in this respect, ‘there is no difference between Jew and Gentiles’” there is still a distinction in function, just as there is between “male and female” (Gal. 3:28) and a “good case can be made for [Jewish believers to observe Torah] in terms of covenantal responsibility because of the divine election of Israel.” This conclusion is of course the same one that Gaebelein and Stroeter had come to in the Principles of Hope only three years earlier. Gaebelein’s change in position, is one of the reasons for his and Stroeter’s parting ways; the other being that Stroeter wanted to settle in Europe.
As for his separation from the Methodist denomination in 1899, the higher criticism that had crept in served “only as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.” In 1897 Gaebelein had already discontinued the monthly allowance given him by the denomination, and had therefore already made his ministry, including the publication of Our Hope, inter-denominational. When recounting the final separation, Gaebelein stated that the Methodist Denomination’s rejection of the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, or acceptance of ‘higher criticism’, “happened in the providence of the Lord, which helped” him make the decision. While the decision to separate from Methodism did affect his decision to separate from Messianic Judaism, it was only part of the picture. In reality it affected him more practically, since the Methodist Society sold the building that he was ministering out of. However this was just the backdrop for his decision to reject the Principles of Messianic Judaism, and the real question should be, Why did Gaebelein decide to interpret the passages in Colossians and Ephesians in such a way so as to negate Messianic congregations? Stallard summarized this by stating, “the entire chapter covering this strategic year in his theological life blurred the rejection of Messianic Judaism, his rejection of his own denomination, and his new awareness of what he believed to be superior ecclesiology.”
Concerning this “deep soul exercise” that Gaebelein went through concerning the nature of the church, “one cannot help but make the comparison to John Nelson Darby’s personal struggle in the area of ecclesiology.” The primary factor that caused Gaebelein to focus on the above mentioned Scriptures, and to interpret them in the light he did, was his growing relationship with the fundamentalist Bible conferences, in particular his introduction to the Plymouth Brethren. In May of 1896 Gaebelein mentions meeting with Mr. Francis Fitch, and that this was the first time he learned of the Plymouth Brethren and their teachings. Then after talking of his rejection of Messianic Judaism, he goes on to say of the Brethren:
Through these brethren beloved I had become acquainted with the works of those able and godly men who were used in the great spiritual movement of the Brethren in the early part of the nineteenth century, John Nelson Darby and others. I found in his writings, in the works of William Kelly, McIntosh, F. W. Grant, Bellett and others the soul food I needed. I esteem these men next to the Apostles in their sound and spiritual teaching (italics added).
So what was it that caused the need to reject Messianic Judaism? Was it the literalistic interpretation of Darbyism that forced a sharper distinction between Israel as a nation and the Church as the body of Christ? In his biography of Gaebelein, David Raush states that he was “pressured to wrestle with the fundamentalist teaching that a converted Jew becomes a part of the true Christian church and therefore is no longer a Jew.(Italics added)” Gaebelein states this explicitly by saying, “as soon, then, as a Jew believes he ceases to be a Jew. His hope is no longer national and earthly, but heavenly; he belongs no longer to the earthly Jerusalem, but to the heavenly; he has, like the believing Gentile, nothing to do with the law, its ordinances and ceremonies.” Gaebelein, while quoting Acts 21:21, goes on and says that it was Paul’s “hour of his failure when he went back to the ceremonial law.” But this would be also to say that Jacob (James) and all Jerusalem’s elders present were also wrong, and in fact Gaebelein goes on to acknowledge this. He states that these Jewish believers’ attitudes were to be expected because the Epistle to the Hebrews had not yet been written, and that at the “beginning of this dispensation it was ‘to the Jew first,’ [but] that order was stopped with the full rejection of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews.”
Gaebelein knew that Israel’s blindness was only in part and goes on to mention several prominent “converted Hebrews.” He then gives an interesting caveat to his dispensational beliefs. Almost as an after-thought, he writes, “If it were true and scriptural that the Church is to pass through the great tribulation, it would also be perfectly in order to have a Jewish national assembly of Hebrew believers now. Indeed the establishment of such would then be very desirable and would be a most definite mark of the end time. On the other hand, it would produce two testimonies, a fact that cannot be harmonized with any of God’s dispensational teachings.” The real question is: Does this “two testimonies” go contrary to “God’s dispensational teachings” or Darby’s dispensational teachings?
In his teaching on Dispensationalism, David Pawson gives an excellent summary of J.N. Darby’s teachings. He mentions that the favorite verse of Dispensationalists is 2 Tim. 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV, italics added)” Darby divided Scripture in several ways that had not been done before the 1830s C.E. Firstly he divided the Bible into seven dispensations, different eras and ways that God dispensed His grace. Secondly Darby divided the return of Christ into two returns, and thirdly he made a division between Christians and Jews. This final division was eternal, such that Christians (converted Jews and Gentiles) were God’s heavenly people, and the Jews were God’s earthly people. Pawson goes on to say,
The simple fact is that none of these dispensational divisions or distinctives can be found [by taking Scripture in its plain, simple meaning], and that is why that no one ever became a dispensationalist by studying the Bible. They all became dispensationalists by receiving teaching or interpretation of the Bible from dispensational teachers. . . . No text says seven dispensations. And what about the two comings? Not a single text in the New Testament says that there will be two returns of Christ, and not a single text states plainly and simply that the Church will escape the great tribulation. . . . And above all, this division between Christians and Jews at the Rapture and then forever, again there is not a single text that can be quoted to say this.
Although the author understands the difference between inductive interpretation (clear, simple, plain statements in Scripture) and deductive interpretation (based on human logic, deductions, inferences, “what follows”) of Scripture, the bigger question is: if the above quote is true, then where did Darby receive the teaching in the first place, a teaching that tends to “play down evangelism of the Jews” and reject Messianic Judaism, as Gaebelein did?
The reality is that Darby was not the first to publish and preach the teachings of dispensationalism, pre-tribulational rapture or a division between Jews and Christians. Historian, Mark Patterson says that although being credited as the originator of pretribulational, premillennialism, Darby never mentions it in writing, speech or record prior to September 1833, and as of 1843 he was still skeptical of the doctrine. This doctrine, however, was being taught by Edward Irving and published in his widely read, prophetic journal The Morning Watch as early as 1830. Darby acknowledges that he was an avid reader of The Morning Watch, and even Benjamin Wills Newton, the cofounder with Darby of the Plymouth Brethren, stated that as of December 1831, after hearing of the “Immediate Coming” view from Irving at the Aubry Conferences, Darby was still undecided. This under-reported or misreported sequence of historical events becomes extremely important when we realize that even A.C. Gaebelein denounced Edward Irving, calling the whole Irvingite movement a “Satanic counterfeit!” Although the author believes that Gaebelein’s critique of Irving is justified, this actually undermines Darby’s entire pre-tribulational, dispensational position that Gaebelein so famously taught, and that caused Gaebelein to denounce Messianic Judaism.
Irving originally heard the concept of splitting the return of Yeshua into two parts in 1827 when he translated from Castilian, the book The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, written by Manuel Diaz Lacunza. Lacunza was a Jesuit Priest, who published under the false persona of a converted Jewish Rabbi, Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra. Irving then learned in 1830 of the “secret” nature of Yeshua’s first return from the 15 year old, Margaret MacDonald. However MacDonald turned out to be a false prophetess. Historian and author, Dave MacPherson recounts that “MacDonald, on the same night that she had her pretrib rapture revelation, declared that a socialist leader, Robert Owen . . . [would] turn out to be the Antichrist.”
The Irvingite origin of the pre-tribulational rapture was not unknown at the time of Gaebelein. Robert Cameron, who was one of the committee members of the Niagara Bible Conferences, wrote in 1902 in the Watchword and Truth journal, “Do you think it wise to exalt into ‘a test of fellowship’ a doctrine so recently enunciated, that does not have a single passage of Scripture beyond the question of a doubt upon which to rest its feet, that had such a questionable origin, from the lips of a heretic [Irving], and supported by the testimony of daemons [MacDonald]…?” Earlier in the 1880s, Cameron had influenced Nathaniel West to reconsider the pre-tribulational position, and in 1898 Dr. West had “tried hard to win [Gaebelein] over” to the post-tribulational, premillennial position. All of this brings to mind the Scripture in 2 Thess. 2:1-3, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah [the Return] and our gathering together to Him [the Rapture], not to get shaken out of your mind or disturbed—either by a spirit [like Margaret MacDonald] or a word [like Edward Irving] or a letter as if through us [like Manuel Lacunza] —as though the Day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way, for the Day [singular, Return and Rapture included] will not come unless the rebellion comes first [the Apostasy] and the man of lawlessness [the Antichrist] is revealed (Commentary added).”
Darby’s impact on Gaebelein’s rejection of Messianic Judaism was two-fold. Firstly, Darby was teaching that “evangelizing the entire world was not really the Church’s responsibility as they would soon be removed before the Great Commission . . . would ever be completed.” The influence of this teaching can be seen in Gaebelein’s “new commission’s” focus being more on teaching Believers and less on evangelism in general. However, undoubtedly the most influential doctrine that Darby espoused was what Newton called the “Jewish interpretation.” This interpretation was the “key that helped [Darby] accept the new doctrine of the pre-tribulational, secret rapture.” Newton wrote:
At last Darby wrote from Cork saying he had discovered a method of reconciling the whole dispute, and would tell us when he came. When he did, it turned out to be the “Jewish interpretation.” The Gospel of Mathew was not teaching Church-Truth but Kingdom Truth and so on … He explained it to me and I said “Darby, if you admit that distinction you virtually give up Christianity.” Well they kept on at that until they worked out the result as we know it. The “Secret Rapture” was bad enough but this was worse.
This interpretation of Darby, had forced him to split the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24) such that the first 14 verses applied only to the Church, and the rest applied to a Jewish remnant. This exact teaching, Gaebelein reiterates in his book The Jewish Question, and just like Darby, Gaebelein has to make divisions in Scriptures where none exist. The divisions in Scripture, that Darby proposed, formed Darby into one of the most divisive people of his day. The list of people whom he “ex-communicated” and opposed include Benjamin Newton, George Müller, Charles Spurgeon, and the preeminent scholar of the 19th century, Samuel P. Tregelles. In a letter Müller wrote, “My brother, I am a constant reader of my Bible, and I soon found that what I was taught to believe did not always agree with what my Bible said. I came to see that I must either part company with John Darby, or my precious Bible … I chose to cling to my Bible and part from Mr. Darby.”
Spurgeon wrote concerning the book, The heresies of the Plymouth Brethren, “It is almost impossible for even [the author’s] heavy hand to press too severely upon this malignant power, whose secret but rapid growth is among the darkest signs of the times.” And in 1846, Tregelles distanced himself from Darby by writing that “effort must be made to uphold the simple historical authority of the Scriptures” referring in part to the historical understanding of eschatology.
Though he became probably the most influential proponent of Darby’s views, Gaebelein never became part of Brethrenism, and to the end of his life, he firmly believed that all the restoration promises throughout the Scriptures must have a literal fulfillment. As mentioned previously, Gaebelein gave himself a caveat for a “Jewish national assembly of Hebrew believers now.” Does this mean that, had Gaebelein lived until today, and seen the growth of the Messianic congregations, in the nation of Israel, that he would have reversed his views on his dispensational teachings, the pretribulational rapture and in particular Messianic Judaism? As Jacob Rosenburg said, “The problem with Messianic Judaism is that we make a problem … by existing we show that both Dispensationalism and Reform Replacement theology are missing something.”
 Jacob Rosenberg, “Historical and Theological Foundations of Messianic Judaism”, n.p., DVD. IAMCS Yeshiva, 2013. Session 4, 39:30.
 Arno Clemens Gaebelein, “Zionism, The Great Jewish National Movement,” Hath God Cast Away His People?, (Gospel Publishing House; Toronto, 1905), 200-202.
 Arno C. Gaebelein, Half a Century – The Autobiography of a Servant, (Our Hope, 1930), 53.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 1.
 John M. Wiley, “A.C. Gaebelein: A Compassionate Dispensational Premillenialist and Friend of Israel”, n.p., [cited 20 July 2016]. Online: https://johnmichaelwiley.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/a-c-gaebelein-a-compassionate-dispensational-premillennialist-and-friend-of-israel/
 Ernst F, Stroeter and Arno C. Gaebelein, eds., The Principles of the Hope of Israel Movement (Vol. 3 of Our Hope; ed. Ernst F. Stroeter, New York, Hope of Israel Mission to the Jews, 1896 )
 Michael D Stallard, The early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein (New York, Edwin Mellen, 2002), 28.
 Gaebelein, Half A Century, 53.
 Gaebelein, Half A Century, 76.
 Michael L. Brown, New Testament Objections, (Vol. 4 of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus; Grand Rapids, Baker, 2006), 174.
 Michael L. Brown, 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices (Bloomington MN, Baker, 2011), 218.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 76.
 Stallard, The early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, 30.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 68.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 79
 Stallard, The early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, 30.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 77.
 Stallard, The early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, 29.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 71.
 David A. Rausch, Arno C. Gaebelein, 1861-1945: Irenic Fundamentalist and Scholar (New York, Edwin Mellen, 1983), 56.
 Gaebelein, The Jewish Question (New York, Our Hope, 1912), 24.
 Gaebelein, The Jewish Question, 26.
 Gaebelein, The Jewish Question, 27.
 Gaebelein, The Jewish Question, 29.
 David Pawson, “Dispensational Theology – Too Pro-Israel,” n.p. [cited 16 Aug 2016]. Online MP3: http://davidpawson.org/ resources/series/biblical-christian-zionism, 26:00.
 Pawson, “Dispensational Theology,” 23:30.
 Pawson, “Dispensational Theology,” 27:30.
 Pawson, “Dispensational Theology,” 59:50.
 Gaebelein was “forced to give up” the principles, while his associate, Dr. Stroeter refused. See Gaebelein, Half a Century, 76.
 Mark Patterson, “Left Behind or Led Astray – Examining the Origins of the Secret Pre-Tribulational Rapture”, n.p., DVD. (Good Fight Ministries, 2015). Disk 1, 1:58:56 – 2:02:05.
 Benjamin Wills Newton, Fry Manuscripts (Manchester, Christian Brethren Achieves, John Ryland Uni.) pp. 245-246 as quoted in “Left Behind or Led Astray”, 2:08:15.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 160.
 Dave MacPherson, “Left Behind or Led Astray”, Disk 2, 42:10 – 42:34.
 Robert Cameron, Watchword and Truth 24 (Boston MA, 1902), 138.
 Ron J. Bigalke, “Niagara Bible Conferences”. The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, (2011).
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 153.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.
 Joe Schimmel, “Left Behind or Led Astray”, Disk 1, 2:30:30.
 F. Roy Coad, Prophetic Developments: With Particular Reference to the Early Brethren Movement, C.B.R.F. Occasional Paper No. 2, (Pinner, Middlesex, 1966), Christian Brethren Archive, John Rylands University Library, Manchester, as quoted in “Left Behind or Led Astray”, Disk 1, 2:19:20.
 Gaebelein, The Jewish Question, 30.
 Robert Cameron, Scriptural Truth About the Lord’s Return (New York, Flemming H. Revell, 1922), 146-147.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, Mr. Grant on “The Darby Brethren”, (Sword and Trowel, 1869) [cited 21 Aug 2016] as quoted on www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/dbreth.php
 George H. Fromow, B.W. Newton and Dr. S. P. Tregelles: Teachers of the Faith and the Future, 2nd ed., (London, Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony, 1969), 33, as quoted on “Left Behind or Led Astray”, Disk 2, 31:17.
 Gaebelein, Half a Century, 234.
 Rosenberg, “Historical and Theological Foundations of Messianic Judaism”, Session 3A, 44:00.