For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham,s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Pastor Pete Peters and The Greatest Discovery of Our Age
by Viola Larson
Pete Peters is the pastor of LaPorte Church in LaPorte Colorado, and head of Scriptures For America. Although he now refutes the name “Identity
” for his church and organization it is undoubtedly the best description of his particular beliefs. All Identity adherents believe that the ten tribes of Israel, which made up the Northern Kingdom of Israel, were lost after the Assyrian captivity but can be “identified” as the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Scandinavian peoples. Identity teachers also believe there is no connection between the Jewish people of today and the twelve tribes of Israel. Many believe that the Jewish people of today are the Edomites of biblical times. Many Identity teachers also insist that the Jewish people are the result of a sexual union between Eve and Satan. Peters belongs to that part of the Identity movement which does not see the Jews as the literal offspring of Satan, but does see them as the enemies of the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Scandinavian races which he believes to be the true Israelites of the Old Testament. Peters also disavows any connection to Nazi-teaching or any occult interests. Still his teachings are unbiblical and racist.
In 1985 Peters published a small booklet, The Greatest Discovery of Our Age, which basically outlines some of the foundational teaching of “Christian Identity.” Using this booklet, I will answer some of the questions he raises. However there are three points I want to make which will help to clarify my answers. First, I must point out, Biblical scholars understand ancient Israel to be called both Israelites and Jews. The New Bible Dictionary states, “It [the name Jew] was commonly used by non-Jews to refer to the Hebrews or descendents of Abraham in general (e.g. Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel).1 For instance, Jeremiah 34:8,9, “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem to proclaim release to them: that each man should set free his male servant, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman; so that no one should keep them, a Jew his brother, in bondage.” Therefore, when I refer to Israelites in this paper I will also mean Jews.
Secondly, not only Jesus Christ, but also the Church of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of many of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Those texts should not be explained exclusively in a nationalistic or ethnic way, since it is no longer one ethnic group that completes the people of God, but those called from every tribe and nation. The teachings of Identity do real harm to the biblical picture of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, the whole of Scripture must be taken together and reconciled. For instance, Peters quotes Isaiah 53:6-8, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was taken from prison and from judgment and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people was He stricken.” Peters, emphasizing the words “my people” attempts to use these verses to say that Jesus died only for the Israelites. But, Titus 2:11 states, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men.” Furthermore, in Romans 10 & 11, the Apostle Paul, when speaking of the Jew's rejection of salvation in Christ and the Gentiles acceptance of salvation in Christ, concludes with, “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”(32) These differing biblical ideas must be reconciled. God's promises came first to the Jews or Israelites but they were expanded to include all who would come to faith in Jesus Christ. That is after all what God's blessing to Abraham was about; one would come from his seed that would bless the nations and that one was Jesus Christ.
Next I will look at three areas of Peters' booklet. First, I will examine the biblical understanding of “lost” using some of the Scripture texts Peters uses. Secondly, I will explore the difference between seeing Israel as the prophetic fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy versus the Church as that fulfillment. Thirdly, I want to look at Peters' view of salvation since it is unbiblical.
Peters sees scriptural references about “lost” as meant for the nation of Israel (and by that he means the white races) and in a physical manner rather than directed to sinners lost in sin. He quotes John 3:16 and Matthew 18:11, but prefers Luke 19:9-10 using that to explain the other two texts.2 Luke 19:9-10 is the story of Zaccheus who climbed the tree to see Jesus. In the narrative Jesus goes to Zaccheus house for a meal and Zaccheus shows that he has repented by calling Jesus Lord, giving half of his possessions to the poor and offering to repay extra anyone he has defrauded. Jesus states: “ Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Peters believes there must be a connection between Jesus' remarks that Zaccheus is a son of Abraham and that salvation has come to Zaccheus house. He believes the words `lost' and `Son of Abraham' and `salvation' are intertwined in an ethnic meaning.
Actually, there is a connection, but not the ethnic one insisted on by Peters. The connection has nothing to do with nationality or race. Abraham is the father of faith. The book of Hebrews states that Abraham was by faith looking for “the city which has foundations whose architect and builder is God.” The book of Galatians states: “Even so Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” (3:6,7,) Zaccheus became a true son of Abraham because he had faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, any person, no matter what nationality, may receive Jesus Christ and become a son of Abraham. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life,” is truly meant for all races and nationalities.
Using Matthew 15:22-26, Peters suggests that because Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” that Jesus' salvation only has meaning for the white race.3 However, although Jesus began His ministry to the Jewish nation, His disciples through the leading of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to Jesus, were to expand the Church to the whole world. Matthew 28: 19 states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Additionally, Paul tells the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” In fact, Jesus commanded the disciples to begin at Jerusalem but to continue on to the ends of the earth. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
Peters uses John 10:7, 10, 11, 16, 27 as a `clue' about lost people. In these verses Jesus says His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. In his booklet, Peters, attempts to show that it is because so many Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Scandinavian peoples have become Christian that they must be Israelites since they heard Jesus' voice. (24) However, much of the early Church was born and existed in Africa as well as Asia Minor. Scholar Kevin Ward writes that Christianity in Africa “has strong claims to be reckoned the oldest of the three traditions, [Islam, Christianity and African traditional religion] with a continuous history on the continent of nearly 2,000 years.”4 Additionally, millions of other ethnic groups have become Christians. The largest growth of Christianity in the world today is in Africa, Latin America and Korea. Some of these Christians are sending missionaries back to Europe and the United States and we do need them!
Jesus says in these same verses “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” Peters uses this particular text to attempt to prove that the tribes of Judah and Benjamin would be reconciled with the supposedly `lost tribes' because of the leadership of Christ. Yet historical information actually disproves such speculation. After the Assyrian captivity of Northern Israel and the Babylonian Captivity of Judah and Benjamin, the twelve tribes became once again a complete nation. Much of the Northern kingdom was gone forever and the emphasis would no longer be on a kingdom of tribes, still, there are indications that all of Israel was included in the peoples of Jesus day. In fact, after the return of the captives of Babylon Ezra includes in his count “The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty three.” (Ezra 2:28) These were “centers of the idolatrous worship of the northern kingdom.”5 In the New Testament Luke 2:36 refers to the prophetess Anna who was “the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher.” Paul, when speaking before King Agrippa about “the hope of the promise made by God” to the Israelites, states: “the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day.” (Acts 26:7a)
The real importance of the words “other sheep” is Jesus' reference to the Gentiles who would come to find salvation uniting them with those Jews who accept the atoning work of Christ. So Jesus is really giving two descriptions of His calling in these verses: One to the lost sinners of Israel, the Jews, and one to the lost sinners of all the nations, the Gentiles. Paul in Romans explains how the Gentiles, the wild branches, are grafted into the olive tree, and some of the natural branches, the Jews, are broken out. See Romans ten and eleven.
I will use the Old Testament verses that Peters uses in reference to being lost as a part of my discussion of the Church as the final fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. They are first of all meant for the people living at the time they were spoken, they apply to the Israelites, the Jewish nation. But, those that speak of the coming Messiah and the people of the Messiah apply to the Church and include both Gentile and Jew. Isaiah 53:6-8, (as well as the whole chapter), speaks of salvation for the people of Israel and also for all of those from every tribe and nation. Isaiah 52: 15a states: Thus He will sprinkle many nations.” Isaiah 56 is a picture of God not only gathering the dispersed of Israel but many others to His salvation.
The Church is the fulfillment of all of these prophecies, not the white races or any lost tribes. Jesus Christ loves His Church and is the source of her life; He will not allow anyone to change her into something less than a company of many peoples redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. “And they sang a new song, saying, worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and nation, You have made them to be a Kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Rev. 5:9, 10)
Regarding salvation, Peters suggests that the tribes of Israel were divorced from God and that Jesus dying on the cross bought them back from the law so they could be remarried to God. Salvation for Peters has more to do with a uniting of the ten tribes of Northern Israel with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin than with Jesus' death and resurrection providing atonement for guilty sinners. He states:
Through His death, burial and resurrection He brought back together the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Hosea 1:11). He made the new covenant with these people (Hebrews 8:8). They were the ones who were lost; they were the treasure He had hidden in the field or world (Matthew 13:44). And now redeemed, they were the ones whom He said would hear His voice. To these people the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus meant more than it did to any other people.6
All of these biblical references have an entirely different exegesis than Peters'. Hosea 1:11 should be explained using the surrounding verses. God has previously rebuked Israel in verse nine saying, “you are not My people and I am not your God.” Verse ten, “Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them, `you are not My people,' it will be said to them, `you are the sons of the living God,” is God's promise after the rebuke. With verse eleven there is an additional promise that the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together again and will appoint themselves a leader. This is a promise working on two levels. For the people at the time of the prophecy is the promise that Israel and Judah will once again be together and will appoint for themselves one leader. That was fulfilled after the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The second layer belongs to the Church. The Gentiles in the Church were at one time not called God's people but after turning to Christ are both God's people and a part of Israel. In fact, Paul uses verse ten of Hosea when referring to the Gentiles who were called to redemption, “even us, whom He also called, not from among the Jews only, but also from among the gentiles.” See Romans 9:23-26. While verse eleven of Hosea states that Judah and Israel will appoint themselves one ruler, in the final fulfillment it is God who appoints their leader, Jesus Christ, and He is their salvation.
Hebrews 8:8 speaks of the New Covenant God makes with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Some biblical scholars feel the author of Hebrews was writing to the Jewish Christians in Rome, who like their fellow Gentile believers were suffering persecution under Nero, but were retreating back to the synagogue, since at the time the Jews possessed more freedom of religion than the Christians. The author is not suggesting that the New Covenant is mainly for this particular ethnic group but rather is pointing out the superiority of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. Mark, in his Gospel, may be addressing the Gentile Christians during the same persecution. He emphasizes the suffering of Christ since the Gentile Christians were enduring horrible suffering. Likewise, Paul, writing to them before the persecution addresses both Jews and Gentiles, and he reminds the Gentiles that they have been grafted into Israel. The New Covenant belongs to both. Paul reminds his readers, “That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendents.” Contrasting the children of works with the children of faith, Paul writes: “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.” Salvation is about grace and faith in Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with race.
Matthew 13:44 speaks of a treasure hidden in a field and likens the kingdom of God to that hidden treasure. Peters believes the treasure is the white race and that Jesus Christ is the one who bought the field. But this is hardly a picture of the white races of Europe and America. R.T. France in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Series makes this comment about the point of the story.
It [the point of the story] lies rather in both the joy which a disciple experiences in `finding' the kingdom of heaven (i.e. in a relationship with Jesus who brings it.), and in his willingness to give up everything else for this (cf. 10:37-39; 19:2729). But it is wrong to describe this `giving up' as `sacrifice'; the man sold from self-interest, in order to buy something far greater. The disciples `giving up' is in the context of joy.7
Salvation is a gift given because of and through Jesus Christ's death on the cross. It is grace, given to those who do not deserve such treasure. God chose the Jewish people to bring forth the ultimate gift, Jesus Christ. They were not chosen because of any righteousness on their part. God calls all of us to receive His gift of Jesus Christ, and not because of any righteousness on our part, but because of His great love.
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
1 The New Bible Dictionary, Eds. J.D. Douglas, F.F. Bruce, R.V.G. Tasker and others, (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press 1980) 631.
2 Speaking of Matthew 18:11, Peters writes: “This is not necessarily as a scripture as Luke 19:9-10, which gives us more clues concerning the `lost.'” Peter J, Peters, The Greatest Discovery of Our Age, (LaPorte, Colorado: Scriptures For America 1985) 7,8.
3 Ibid. 5, 9, 10.
4 Kevin ward, “Africa,” A World History Of Christianity, Ed. Adrian Hastings, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company 1999) 192.
5 Jan Karel Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults: A Study in Present-Day Isms, Third Revised and Enlarged Edition, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1960) 176.
6 Peters, Discovery, 29.
7 R.T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Ed. Leon Morris, (Leicester, England: Grand Rapids: Inter-Varsity Press; Eerdmans 1994) 229.