A BIBLICAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH

0 ISRAEL VS CHURCH

All who take the Bible serious know that Israel is God’s chosen people on earth. We also know that Israel rejected the Messiah. As a result, God laid Israel aside and did not use her as His instrument of judgment, light, and salvation. Note “laid aside,” not “rejected,” or “replaced.” The Church, primarily from among the Gentiles, is God’s organ of salvation for almost 2,000 years now.

Based on the clear teaching of the Old Covenant, we know that God promised His people a New Covenant. The prophets explained the details of that covenant and it was established by the Lord Jesus Christ. However—and this is extremely important for us to understand—the New Covenant does not include physical, geographical, political, or material promises. Quite clearly, such promises were given to the people of Israel under the Old Covenant.

A Two-Fold Light Of The World?

God promised that Israel would give light to all the nations of the world. Since that has not been the case in the past, we can be sure that Israel will be restored to its original boundaries in order to fulfill this prophecy. Ultimately, the Jews will have to take a position of leadership here on earth. Deuteronomy 14:2 says, “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

This presents a problem: two groups of people are expected to be light to the world.

Thus, the question we must first answer is, “Is Israel a light to the Gentiles in our days?” Absolutely not. Spiritually speaking, Israel is in darkness. You can’t be a light to others if you are in darkness yourself. Actually, the apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, says, “As concerning the gospel, they (Jews) are enemies for your sakes…” But in no way does this fact annul God’s eternal promise that Israel will be a light to the Gentiles: “… It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Therefore, we have absolute assurance that Israel’s becoming a light to the world is yet to come.

Jesus said to the Church, “Ye are the light of the world.” For almost 2,000 years the Church has been the light-bearer, the torch of God. The Church has provided light to those in darkness. The Holy Spirit has convicted millions of souls of their sin and they have been added to the “kingdom of light.”

It is important to emphasize at this point that we are not a light to the world collectively, but individually. Neither Scripture nor church history tells of a whole nation being saved at one time. That has never happened nor will it ever happen in the world of the Gentiles. Having said this, we realize that there are two tasks involved in being a light to the world: the Church to the individual, and Israel to the nations.

We understand that the light of the world is the Lord Jesus Christ. His light, which radiates from believers, reaches the hearts of sinners. This same Jesus has also promised that the Church should be in His presence. Therefore, our task to be light-bearers in this world is only for a limited time. It began on the day of Pentecost and will continue until our departure, the day of our Rapture. The world at that time will indeed experience darkness. There will no longer be any hindering element to the deceptive works of Satan, the father of lies.

When will our task be completed? When the last from among the Gentiles is added to the Church. Then we will be raptured into the presence of the Lord.

When will Israel fulfill her calling to be the light of the world? When the spiritual restoration of Israel has taken place.

Israel Must Be Fully Restored

Historically, it has been impossible for Israel to come into existence as a nation since the Jews were scattered throughout the world. They could not go back to the land of Israel because they would not have been able to survive in a land considered to be a desert. Therefore, God made the necessary preparations that when the Jews did return to the land of Israel, not only would they be able to feed themselves but they would become a dominant factor in that part of the world.

In a similar way, the Lord Jesus assured His Church that He would make preparations for us, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). In Israel’s case, the Lord God prepared the land for the people, “But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come” (Ezekiel 36:8). It is quite fascinating to read in verse 4 of Ezekiel 36 the details describing the entire land of Israel, “Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about.” Remember, the land was desolate and forsaken, and actually did become a “derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about.” This, my friends, is a reality that can be proven unquestionably by recent history.

Since the rebirth of the political state of Israel in May 1948, this country has become a fulfillment of Bible prophecy, a miracle in the eyes of all those who have taken the time to honestly analyze the people and the land. Therefore, the fact that the Jews are coming back to Israel, are building a modern progressive nation, and have become a powerhouse in the Middle East clearly shows that the beginning of Israel signals the end for the Church.

Israel: A Rapture Sign

Our forefathers diligently sought for signs of the endtimes. Bible scholars in the 1600’s, 1700’s, and even the 1800’s searched faithfully for signs that would indicate that the Jews were going back to the land of their fathers. Charles Spurgeon, one of the great preachers of this century, knew the Bible well and studied the Old Testament in particular. In 1910, he made the following statements regarding Ezekiel 36 and 37:

“The meaning of our text, as opened up by the context, is most evidently, if words mean anything, first, that there shall be a political restoration of the Jews to their own land and to their own nationality; and then, secondly, there is in the text, and in the context, a most plain declaration, that there shall be a spiritual restoration, a conversion in fact, of the tribes of Israel.

They are to have a national prosperity which shall make them famous; nay, so glorious shall they be that Egypt, and Tyre, and Greece, and Rome, shall all forget their glory in the greater splendor of the throne of David. If there be meaning in words this must be the meaning of this chapter.

I wish never to learn the art of tearing God’s meaning out of His own words. If there be anything clear and plain, the literal sense and meaning of this passage must be evident that both the two and the ten tribes of Israel are to be restored to their own land, and that a king is to rule over them.”

May we learn likewise never to take the Word of God lightly nor interpret it so that it fits into our time. Instead, let the Word of God speak to our hearts so that we will understand the signs of the times.

In Matthew 24, the Lord repeats the word “shall” approximately 59 times. If we want to know the future, the Lord has already told us what “shall be.” Matthew 24:31 clearly describes a “rapture,” but not the Rapture of His Church, “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” We will refer to this verse again in later chapters, but it is important to point out that in this verse the Lord shall not come “Himself;” rather, He “shall send his angels.”

Who Are The Elect In Matthew 24:31?

What are these angels supposed to do? They are to gather “his elect from the four winds.” Who, then, are His elect in Matthew 24:31? Of course, we all would agree that the elect comprise the Church. In fact, the word “elect” means “called out” or “to be chosen.”

In relation to Israel, James exclaimed in Acts 15:14, “… God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” Undoubtedly this is an election from among the Gentiles; however, we cannot deny that Israel was elected first.

We cannot overlook God’s statements regarding His chosen people, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth”‘(Deuteronomy 14:2). Doesn’t 1st Chronicles 16:13 tell us the same? “O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones.” We support Israel’s special position with these additional verses: “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure” (Psalms 135:4).

“But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my fiend” (Isaiah 41:8).

“Yet now hear, 0 Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen” (Isaiah 44:1).

Therefore, when we ask, “Who are the elect in in Matthew 24:31?”, we find the answer in Isaiah 45:4, “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name; I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.”

Until this very day, Israel stands in opposition to the Gospel. The apostle Paul writes, “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Romans 11:28). The Jews are currently still enemies of the Gospel.

The question that should automatically come to mind is, “How can these people, who are enemies of the Gospel, and who have rejected their Messiah shouting “His blood be upon us and our children,’be the elect?” The answer is the same and applies to all who have been saved through the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace!

We must never forget that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. He commended His love toward us while we were lost, without hope and without God.

Will Israel be saved in a different way? No. Do they have to try to keep the Law and be good people in order to be saved? No. If such requirements applied, they would be earning their salvation and grace would be made invalid. As a result, there would be two standards of salvation—a concept contrary to what the Bible teaches, for Jesus plainly said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Therefore, the grace of the Lord Jesus will be poured upon His people Israel just as the prophet proclaimed, “. ..I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn ” (Zechariah 12:10).

The Jews Will Return

Again, we ask, “How can the Jews look upon Jesus whom they have pierced if they are still scattered among the four corners of the earth?” It is impossible to predict how the Jews will act in the future. But right now, considering the fact that modern Israel has existed since 1948, there are Jews residing in rich countries such as Europe and America with no intentions of returning to the land of Israel.

Yet, God clearly tells us through His prophets that ultimately every single Jew will return to the land of Israel. For example, Ezekiel 39:28 says, “Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.”

Reread the last part of that verse: “have left none of them any more there.” The message is that there will be no Jews among the Gentiles.

Thus the question, “How will the Jews get to Israel?” “He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet and shall gather his elect from the four winds; from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).

The Fig Tree

Immediately following this statement, the Lord spoke regarding the fig tree: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh” (Matthew 24:32). We know that the fig tree symbolizes Israel under the Law. It is important to note that the Lord does not say “when the fig tree puts forth fruit,” but when it “puts forth leaves.” In understanding this, we realize that when man first sinned he used the leaves of the fig tree to cover his nakedness and hide his sin; Israel never actually had their sin taken away.

The Bible says that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Through the Law and the sacrificial service, Israel’s sin was covered up, not removed.

Since 1948, the fig tree has become a reality, and indeed is sprouting forth leaves. This is vividly exemplified in their government, where the religious party has great authority. Israel’s national airline, El Al, had to stop flying on the Sabbath because of the law forbidding work on that day. They are bringing forth “leaves,” not “fruit.” Yet

Scripture explains that by the Law, no flesh will be justified. So how will Israel bring forth “fruit”? Through grace!

It is also significant that the Lord’s last miracle before the crucifixion was the cursing of the fig tree: “. ..seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it” (Mark 11:13-14). In verse 21 we read, “And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.” The fig tree died and for almost 2,000 years Israel was nowhere on the map. The fig tree will not bring forth fruit but the leaves will sprout again as we have read in Matthew 24:32, “… When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh.”

Israel’s Relationship To The Church

Sometimes we tend to oversimplify the Bible by saying the Old Testament is for the Jews and the New Testament is for Christians. It is true that the Jews still do not consider the New Testament as part of their Scripture. At the most, they refer to it as the “Christian” Bible.

The Church of Jesus Christ was founded in Jerusalem by Jews, for Jews, and consisted exclusively of Jews. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is a Jewish book written by Jews for Jews. Yet Scripture clearly tells us that during the time of the Gentiles, the Jew, in particular, would be blind to the reality of the Savior, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is substantiated in Romans 11:28, “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sake.”

Throughout the centuries, the Jews have painfully experienced severe persecution under the auspices of “churchianity” They were killed by the Romans and suffered through the Spanish Inquisition. There is not one country on the face of the earth in which they have not experienced opposition, persecution and even death. The most horrendous genocide of all time took place in Germany under the reign of Adolf Hitler, a professing Catholic who frequently quoted Scripture and spiced his speeches with Bible-based slogans. From the Jewish perspective, even Adolf Hitler was a “Christian.”

From a historical perspective, the Jews have always diametrically opposed anything that is Christian. There seems to be an unbridgeable gap between the two. On the other end of the spectrum, the relationship to Israel and the Jews is different in Bible-believing Christianity.

In Romans 11, the apostle Paul reminds the Gentile church of her roots. In verse 13 Paul identifies the group that he is addressing, “I speak to you Gentiles.” He reveals that Israel still exists, and he compares Israel to an olive tree, “… if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee” (Romans 11:17-21). Paul clearly explains in verse 24 that Israel will be resurrected, “For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” The Church has often overlooked God’s unconditional guarantee of Israel’s perpetual existence. At that time the Church as a whole was making the same mistake that the world makes today: “I only believe what I see.”

Israel’s Future

From God’s point of view, there is no question about Israel’s existence—despite the fact that they were not a nation for 2,000 years.

Listen to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name. If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

One cannot simply do away with Israel. It is God’s creation and what God creates is eternal! Therefore, let us not repeat the mistake of assuming that Israel has lost her position as God’s elect. She was not replaced by the Church; this type of “replacement theology” has been the mother of many heresies.

Of course, it is true that Israel rejected the Messiah, but God never rejected Israel. Instead, He temporarily put Israel aside in His plan of salvation which He ordained before the foundation of the world.

Time Limit Of The Church

In Romans 11, we find a time limit, or dispensation for the Church, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25). The apostle Paul points out that this is a mystery of which we should not be ignorant, otherwise, we would deceive ourselves. The blindness is for the sake of the Gentiles “Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

Gospel To The Gentiles

For this reason, we continuously support the urgency of preaching the Gospel to all people everywhere so that the fullness of the Gentiles may come in soon. The Church is an intermission in God’s eternal plan of salvation with His people Israel. This was hidden from the beginning. The apostles didn’t even fully understand this great mystery. Ephesians 5:32 states, ” This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” The early Church did not fully comprehend that God would first take out a people from among the Gentiles for His name.

Even after Jesus defeated the powers of darkness on Calvary’s cross, crying out “It is finished;” was buried; arose the third day; and walked among His disciples, they still didn’t understand: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The disciples had one-track minds; they wanted Israel to be an independent kingdom with all of its former glories. They knew Scripture, and hoped for the immediate resurrection of the kingdom of Israel. The only thing they could understand were the “good ole’ days.” God, however, doesn’t look back to old glories, but tells us that He will make “all things new.”

The disciples were commanded to wait until the Holy Spirit came, “… I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high ” (Luke 24:49).

Then they were to be “witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” {Acts 1:8). This is a very clear instruction; the beginning is Jerusalem and the end is the outermost parts of the world. The Gospel has literally gone from Jerusalem to the very ends of the earth. For that reason we believe that the Church has little success when it tries to follow this command in the opposite direction, that is preaching the Gospel to Israel and expecting a mass conversion of Jews.

The Gentile Conflict In The Church

In the beginning, there was a controversy about the Gentiles belonging to the Church. In Acts 15, we read that “… Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them…” (verse 2). Why? Because these Jews did not fully grasp the Gospel of grace but tried to convert the Gentiles to Judaism first. They taught, “… Except ye (Gentiles) be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (verse 1).

To settle this conflict, an apostolic counsel was held in Jerusalem.

“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:7-11).

It is significant that the apostle Peter spoke these words because he was the first to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God. Based on Peter’s confession, Jesus said, “. ..I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). We emphasize that the statement of our Lord has absolutely no relation to the man-made establishment of the Roman papal system, or to any national or international church entity.

Salvation always was and always will be “of the Jew,” as the Lord Jesus Himself stated. Nowhere in the Bible do we read of the Lord giving preference to a certain city or country outside of Israel.

Therefore, any group who claims to be the exclusive and privileged successors of the apostle Peter, or who asserts that they are the exclusive dispensers of salvation, can rightfully be labeled as an anti-Christian cult.

After Peter had spoken, “… all the multitudes kept silence.” Barnabas and Paul then gave affirmation regarding the Gentiles.

Prophecy Settles Conflict

James confirmed this testimony when he declared, “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up ” (Acts 15:14-16). Here we see the authority of the apostle Peter, for he was the first to preach the Gospel to the Jews, to the half-Jew Samaritans, and to the Gentiles. He was also the first one through whom the Lord performed miracles—including raising the dead to life—to demonstrate the fulfillment of prophecy. James now endorses that which Simon (Peter) had stated is based on the prophetic Word.

Turning in our Bibles to the Old Testament book of Amos, the prophet writes, “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this” (Amos 9:12). This verse prophetically refers to the inclusion of the Gentiles, “which are called by my name.”

Mystery Of The Church

God’s plan for both His people and the Gentiles was a mystery unknown to Israel, the apostles and the prophets; even the angels did not know. The testimony of Peter says the following, “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1st Peter 1:10-13).

Gentile’s Hopelessness

Most of us who are saved by grace from among the Gentiles don’t fully comprehend the hopelessness of our situation before we became Christians. The apostle Paul explains to the Ephesians, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12). Think of it: “no hope” and “without God.” Could anything possibly be worse than that? Thank God that is not how it ends. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

Indeed, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).

Gentile’s Hope

At this point, we must stress that the Gentiles, born again of the Spirit of God, are the ones who are addressed by the apostle Paul, for he says, “I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1). He also reveals some wonderful news in verse 6, “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. ” To the Romans, this same apostle confirms the fulfillment of Bible prophecy for the Gentiles, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust” (Romans 15:8-12).

Therefore, the Gentiles have a duty toward Israel, “It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things” (Romans 15:27). These few verses should validate the fact that although Israel and the Church remain two distinct entities, they are organically united because they both partake of the olive tree.

The Organic Unity Of Jews And Christians

Another verse is often misused and needs to be clarified: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The Church consists of both Jews and Gentiles; the two have become one. On a spiritual level there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile.

However, this does not abolish the physical identity of a Jew being a Jew and a Greek being a Greek, which is evident from the statement, “there is neither male nor female.” Every one of us can attest that the moment we were born again of the Spirit of God, we continued to be what we were: male or female. This further proves that spiritual unity in Christ Jesus is what is meant here and in no way does it indicate that a Jew is no longer a Jew.

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

 

WHO IS A JEW? WHO IS ISRAEL?

0 the church is not israel

Who is a Jew and who is Israel of the Bible? Is it the “church,” or those who practice Orthodox Judiasm? Or maybe a nation?

In his book, “The Remnant of Israel: The History, Theology, and Philosophy of The Messianic Jewish Comunity,” Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, a Messianic Jew, attempted to answer this much debated question. There are few topics in the Jewish and Christian world that have been more debated than this one. To this day there is no consistent definition among most people.

A Biblical Definition

If Jewishness is defined in terms of religion, and that religion is defined as Orthodox Judaism, then obviously Messianic Jews are not Jewish. But according to this definition neither are most Jews, because most Jews do not practice Orthodox Judaism. Defining Jewishness on a purely religious basis does not satisfactorily explain who a Jew is.

The Messianic Jewish definition has an objective standard; it goes back to the very source of Jewishness: the Scriptures. The further any definition departs from the Scriptures, the foggier it gets. The Messianic Jew is forced to define Jewishness in the biblical sense of the term, for to him the Scriptures are the source of authority. Hence the Messianic Jewish definition can also be called the biblical definition. The biblical basis for defining Jewishness lies in the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis:

“Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you: and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and be you a blessing: and I will bless them that bless you, and him that curses you will I curse: and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

It is further described in two other passages:

“For all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then may your seed also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:15-16)

“And, behold, the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, This man shall not be your heir; but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if you be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall your seed be.” (Genesis 15:4-5)

Later, the Abrahamic Covenant is confirmed through Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5 and Genesis 26:2-5. After Isaac, it is reconfirmed through Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15.

From the Abrahamic Covenant a simple definition of Jewishness can be deduced. It lies in the repeated statement that a nation will come through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and thus defines Jewishness in terms of nationality. This nationality is not confined to the State of Israel alone, but it includes all the Jewish people no matter where they are. It is a nationality based on descent and not on Zionism.

Biblically speaking, the Jewish people are a nation. Although many of them today, are still scattered, they are nevertheless, a nation. They are a nation because they are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The implication of this definition is that no matter what a Jew does he can never become a non-Jew; no matter what the individual Jew may believe or disbelieve he remains a Jew. If a Jew chooses to believe that Yeshua is his Messiah, he too remains a Jew. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can change the fact that he is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

At this point the problem of children of mixed marriages comes up. These children are usually designated half-Jewish and half-Gentile. The theology of Judaism teaches that Jewishness is determined by the mother; if the mother is Jewish, then the children are Jewish. But again, this is a departure from the biblical norm. In the Scriptures it is not the mother who determines Jewishness but the father; consequently the genealogies of both the Old and New Testaments list the names of the men and not of the women, except in cases where a mother was notable in Jewish history. Thus if the father is Jewish, the children are Jewish. King David was definitely Jewish, although his great grandmother Ruth and his great-great grandmother Rahab were both Gentiles.

Can the church be called a Jew (or “Israel”)?

The New Testament divides the world into three groups of people: Jews, Gentiles, and believers (I Corinthians 10:32). It plainly teaches that no one can ever be born a Christian; everyone is either born a Jew or born a Gentile. A Christian is therefore, either a Jew or a Gentile who has become a believer. He is not a Jew (or “Ïsrael”) merely because he holds church membership or is baptized.

In the Levitt newsletter for May 1996, Dr. Thomas McCall, the Senior Theologian of Zola Levitt Ministries, also addressed the battle regarding the nature and character of the Church, especially in relation to its biblical predecessor, Israel. The two major views are that:

  1. The Church is a continuation of Israel.
  2. The Church is completely different from Israel.

First View: The Church is Israel

The predominant view has been that the Church is the “new” Israel, a continuation of the concept of Israel which began in the Old Testament. In this view, the Church is the refinement and higher development of the concept of Israel. All of the promises made to Israel in the Scriptures find their fulfillment in the Church. Thus, the prophecies relating to the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land are “spiritualized” into promises of blessing to the Church. The prophecies of condemnation and judgment, though, are retained literally by the Jewish nation of Israel.

This view is sometimes called Replacement Theology, because the Church is seen to replace Israel in God’s economy. One of the problems with the view, among others, is the continuing existence of the Jewish people, especially with regard to the revival of the new modern state of Israel. If Israel has been condemned to extinction, and there is no divinely ordained future for the Jewish nation, how does one account for the supernatural survival of the Jewish people since the establishment of the Church, for almost 2,000 years against all odds? Furthermore, how does one account for Israel’s resurgence among the family of nations as an independent nation, victorious in several wars and flourishing economically?

Second View: Israel and the Church are Different

The other view, we believe, is clearly taught in the New Testament, but it has been suppressed throughout most of Church history. This view is that the Church is completely different and distinct from Israel, and the two should not be confused. In fact, the Church is an entirely new creation that came into being on the Day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and will continue until it is taken to Heaven at the Rapture return of the Lord (Eph. 1:9-11). None of the curses or blessings pronounced upon Israel refer directly to the Church. The Church enters into the Abrahamic and New Covenants, for instance, only by divine application, not by original interpretation (Matt 26:28).

This leaves all the covenants, promises, and warnings to Israel intact. Israel, the natural Jewish nation, is still Israel. To be sure, Israel has been side-lined during these past 1,900 years of the Diaspora. The Church has taken center stage in the Lord’s affairs as the Gospel has spread throughout the world. Nevertheless, God has carefully preserved the Jewish people, even in unbelief, through every kind of distress and persecution. Sometimes, the professing Church itself (I speak to our shame) has been a cause of these persecutions to the Jews.

Not only has God preserved the Jewish nation, but He has also kept His promise to save a remnant of Israel in every generation. The remnant of Israel in this age are the Jewish believers in Christ who have joined the Gentile believers, and form the Church, the Body of Christ (Rom. 11:5). In this respect, then, a part of Israel (the believing remnant) intersects with the Church during the Church Age. But this does not make Israel the Church, or vice versa.

In the future, both God’s warnings and promises to Israel will come to pass. After the Lord is finished with the Church Age, and has taken the Church to Heaven in the Rapture 1 Thess. 4:16-18), God will restore Israel to center stage on the world’s divine theater. First comes the devastating “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer. 30:7) also known as the Great Tribulation. This is a dreadful period of seven years, which begins relatively lightly during the first half, but intensifies into full focus during the latter half. During this time the world is judged for rejecting Christ, but, more specifically, Israel is judged, purged and prepared through the fiery trials of the Great Tribulation for the Second Coming of the Messiah. This is the bad news.

The good news is that, when Christ does return to the earth at the end of the Tribulation, Israel will be ready, willing, and eager to receive Him, and proclaim, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39). As the stumbling of Israel brought blessing to the world at Christ’s First Coming, the reception of Israel to Christ at His Second Advent will be like “life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15). The remnant of Israel which survives the Tribulation (some one-third of the Jewish people who enter the Tribulation), will be saved, and the Lord will establish His kingdom on the same earth and the same capital city, Jerusalem, that rejected Him centuries before. Israel will be the head of the nations, and no longer the tail, and all nations will send representatives to Jerusalem to honor and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Isa. 2:2-3;Micah 4:1). The Church will return with Christ, and will rule with Him for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-5). He Himself told His disciples that they would rule over the 12 tribes of Israel in the restoration (Matt. 19:28). Thus, Israel has not been forgotten in God’s plan. While the Jewish nation still has a dark period facing it, there is a glorious finale to Israel’s long history.

How Did the Church Decide the Demise of Israel?

The New Testament Church was very much involved with the vicissitudes of Israel. Jesus is an Israeli, as were all the apostles, and the concerns of Israel, spiritually and politically, were very much a part of their lives. The greatest struggles the early Church had were over the relationship between Israel and the Church, law and grace, and the fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ (Galatians). Many of the Jewish believers were not comfortable with the Gentile believers at first; and as time went on and Gentiles began to predominate numerically, the attitudes were reversed. Galatians shows how the Jewish party tried to impose the Mosaic Law on Gentile Christians, and Romans shows how the Gentile party began to “boast against the branches” (Rom. 11:18), resenting the place of Israel in history and theology.

It took some time, perhaps a couple of centuries, but eventually the vast Gentile majority in the Church began to view Israel as a vestigial organ that had outlived its usefulness. In fact, the predominant Christian view was that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD signaled the official and divinely-ordained end of the Jewish nation, never more to be re-instituted as a national entity. The fact that Jerusalem lay in ruins and the Jewish people were scattered over the world was seen as conclusive evidence that God was forever finished with national Israel. If there were any purpose for the existence of the Jewish people, it was to remind the world of the severe judgment of God upon a disobedient people.

If this harsh view of Israel were true, though, what of the promises of God to Israel in the Old Testament? For those who claimed to believe in the entire Bible as the Word of God, this was a great problem. How could a faithful God not keep His promises to His ancient people? To deal with this took extraordinary theological dexterity and alchemy. The theologians had to propose that Israel in the Scriptures did not really mean Israel, especially when it came to the promises of eternal blessing. Instead, Israel meant something else, something that came to be known in the New Testament as the Church. The Church became the new Israel, and through this remarkable transformation, wherever blessing is promised to Israel in the Old Testament, it was interpreted to mean the Church. This is Replacement Theology, in which the Church has become Israel.

Replacement Theology was already around before the end of the First Century, but did not become the official position of professing Christian leadership until Augustine popularized the concept, primarily in THE CITY OF GOD, in the latter part of the Fourth Century. Augustine actually states that he was previously a Chiliast, meaning that he was a believer in the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth after His return. This is the same as our current description of Premillennialism. However, he had come to the conclusion that this view was “carnal,” and had adopted the view that the reign of Christ would be something more “spiritual,” and would actually occur during the Church Age. Such a view necessitated the extinction of Israel, and the cancellation of all promises God made to the Jewish nation. These promises of blessing would now be fulfilled within the framework of the Church.

This view, which had been latent in Christendom, now flourished throughout the Byzantine world. From this point on, the theological legs were cut out from under Israel, and the predominant Christian theology was that there was no future for Israel. Replacement Theology has been the rule that has survived the Middle Ages, the Crusades and the Reformation in Church History. Only during the last Century or so has the Premillennial concept of the future of Israel come to the forefront in evangelical Christianity. Even so, it is a minority view.

Does Israel’s Future Demean the Church’s Glory?

Some suggest that if Israel has not ceased to exist in its covenant relationship to God, and if Israel still has a future in the divine plan, this somehow diminishes the position of the Church. Is such a concern valid? It is almost as though the Church has been jealous of Israel, and afraid that if it recognized Israel’s future promises, it would somehow demean Christ and the Church. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is when the Church recognizes Israel that the true distinctiveness and glory of the Body of Christ becomes evident. This called-out body, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles during the Church Age, is the highest entity the Lord has created, superior to the universe, all the Angels, the nations, and Israel. Our Head, our Husband, our Friend is the Son of God Himself. We shall reign with Him when He rules the earth, and our 12 Founding Apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel. The Angels themselves will study us forever as the greatest exhibit of God’s grace, and we will actually judge the Angels. This is our destiny, and this writer, for one, would not trade his position in the Body of Christ with any creature in the universe! Why, then, be disturbed over what God has promised the Jewish people? Why be jealous over the future destiny of Israel? How short sighted of us! Indeed, the Church’s finest and most distinctive hour will be when Israel is restored nationally and spiritually to the Lord at the Second Coming of Christ. We will return from Heaven with Him as His glorious Bride to rule the world. What more could we ask? (Sadly, those who follow Replacement theology, would rather also reject the prophecies regarding the rapture of the church and the 1000 year reign, than accepting that God will honour His covenant to the Jews – Israel).

So, if we are not to suffer from spiritual myopia, we must recognize what the Lord is doing with Israel, not shrinking from it as though our own interests will be overshadowed. Rather, we rejoice in these developments, with full assurance that our own redemption draws ever closer.

(Main Source: https://www.levitt.com/essays/israel-church )