Israel And The Church. Follow Up

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series What Does The Bible say?

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

My study on Israel and the Church provoked several comments that require a lengthy response. It made more sense to post them as a separate document than to append them to the bottom of the original study. Here they are.

Reader Comment 1: You state that “God took some who were formerly Jews and some who were formerly Gentiles and made one new man out of the two” (Ephes. 2:14-16).
This was an excellent article except for the above statement. In Gal. 3:28 it states there is neither Jew nor Greek…neither male nor female. Jews are not formerly Jews who believe in their Messiah any more than I became a former female when I believed in Jesus. Jews and Gentiles, males and females all retain their identities but those identities are no longer barriers to our becoming one new man.

The one thing a Jew fears is that he will no longer be a Jew if believing in Jesus. Being a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob is a blood line inherited and cannot be changed any more than a black person can change once becoming a follower of Christ.

My Response: Let’s look at these two passages. We’ll take Galatians 3:28 first.

There is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Now Ephesians 2:14-16;

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,  by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

These two passages are both saying the same thing in that they both convey God’s perception of people who become believers in Jesus during the Church Age. As you said, a woman does not stop being a woman when she becomes a believer in Jesus. But from God’s perspective there is no difference between a Christian woman and a Christian man; to Him they are equal partakers of the Church’s eternal destiny.

In the same way, people of Jewish descent do not stop being Jewish by blood, but once they become believers in Jesus God no longer considers them part of Israel in terms of their eternal destiny. He sees them as part of the Church, equal partakers with Christians of Gentile descent in the Church’s destiny. Whether Jew or Gentile, our future is not determined by the blood of our ancestors, but by the blood of Christ.

(Paul was speaking only of the Church Age here. After the rapture, Jews who become believers in Jesus will remain part of Israel, and Gentiles who become believers in Jesus will still be Gentiles.)

In Ephesians 2:17-18 Paul concluded his thought by saying,

He (Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far away (Gentiles) and peace to those who were near (Jews). For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Gentiles don’t enjoy peace with God by becoming part of Israel, and Jews don’t enjoy peace with God by giving up their Jewishness to become like Gentiles. Both achieve peace with God by becoming part of the body of Christ.

By the way, the opposite is also true. Jews and Gentiles who don’t become believers in Jesus will also share the same destiny, which will be eternal separation from God. (John 14:6)

Paul confirmed this change in spiritual identity in 1 Cor.10:32 when he said, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks (Gentiles) or the Church of God.” Up until that time, Jews and Gentiles were the only two groups of humanity in the world. Now there are three.

Reader Comment 2: In John 14:3 Jesus says that he is preparing a place for his followers, which in this case were Jews. In 1 John 3:2 the same apostle writes that we will be like Jesus and see him as he is. If we are going to be like him, we must no longer be limited to time and space just as he is not. The new Jerusalem will be our home, but we will also commute down here to earth to rule with him. (Revelation 1:6, 20:4) There is and there will be a division between Israel and the Church, but it may not be as distinct as you imagine it to be.

My Response: I don’t know if this is what you were implying, but I don’t see any Biblical justification for the opinion that Jesus was only referring to His Jewish followers in John 14:3. He didn’t come back just for them, and when He does come back it will be for the entire body of born again believers, whether of Jewish or Gentile heritage.

Also there’s no Biblical certainty that we will commute regularly to earth. Human kings in the past have ruled over vast and far flung empires without ever personally visiting large parts of them.

Because of our humanness we can’t help but wonder what our “jobs” will be in the Millennium, and the Bible doesn’t offer any helpful hints on the subject. But looking around the world, we can see that most members of the various royal families don’t actually work, in the sense that we think of it. Most occupy their time in a “higher calling”. Public service and charity work are popular examples of this.

Also, if you look closely you’ll see that Rev. 1:6 and Rev. 20:4 do not refer to the same group. The group in Rev. 1:6 is made up of kings and priests who’ve been freed from our sins by His blood and will serve the God and Father of our Lord Jesus. Most scholars see this group as the Church.

The group in Rev 20:4 consists of resurrected martyrs who will have been beheaded during the Great Tribulation for refusing to take the mark of the beast. They will reign with Christ for 1,000 years but are not called either kings or priests. They are often called Tribulation saints.

Since they are not part of the Church, they won’t live in the New Jerusalem. Rev. 21:27 says only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will live there. I believe it’s possible that they will live on Earth and will help us administer the nations in a subordinate role. If so, they could be the “on site” administrators of the Kingdom.

In contrast, during the Millennium Israel will be governed by King David (Ezekiel 37:24), with the help of a natural human prince, and a priesthood to oversee Temple matters (Ezekiel 44). We know this prince is a natural human because he will have to offer sacrifices for sin (Ezek.46:2) and will have sons (Ezek. 46:16).

Even though no one but the Church can enter the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27), I believe we will have free visitation privileges on earth, and anywhere else in the universe. So the difference between Israel and the Church could be just as distinct as I’ve described it.

Reader Comment 3: Very interesting article that clears up a lot of confusion many people have regarding the Church and Israel. I, however, have a couple questions and would like your input.

You say that after the second coming, only the remnant of Israel and the Old Testament believers will occupy the Millennial Kingdom on Earth. You then say the Church will leave the Earth at the rapture and remain there forever.

My understanding is that the Church will receive the resurrected bodies during the rapture, then return to the Earth with Christ at the Second Coming. I don’t know how long that visit will be but the scripture does seem to point to the Church returning to the Earth.

Also, What about the gentile who comes to faith during the tribulation? In my understanding, the sheep from the sheep and goat judgement will also live on into the millennial age on Earth. That would leave the Earth to be occupied by the remnant Israel, the believing gentiles, and the resurrected/raptured believers.

My Response: What I said was, “After the Second Coming only the believing remnant of Israel will be left to dwell in the promised land on Earth. Together with resurrected Old Testament believers, they will constitute national Israel.” Earlier I said that Israel would once again be preeminent among the nations of Earth.

There are a number of references to the nations on Earth during the Millennium, and two of them, Egypt and Assyria, are actually named (Isaiah 19:23-25). General mentions of nations in the Millennium include Psalm 2:8-9, Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 62:1-2, Zechariah 14:16-19, Rev. 21:24. As you said, the nations of earth will be populated by Gentiles who will have become believers after the rapture and survived the end times judgments. They will be ushered live into the kingdom at the Sheep and Goat judgment following the Second coming (Matt. 25:34) and will help re-populate the earth. Eventually many of their descendants will rebel against God and gather to attack Israel one final time. But fire will come down from heaven and devour them (Rev. 20:7-9).

It’s popular to assume that because the Bible says we will reign with Christ, then the Church must be the armies of Heaven that return with Him at the Second Coming (Rev. 19:14). In support of this they compare the fine linen the bride will wear at the wedding (Rev. 19:8) with the fine linen the armies of heaven will be wearing (Rev. 19:14) and assume both groups are the same.

But I don’t think this is the case. First, it’s not typical for a military commander to bring his new bride into battle with him, and second the Bride of Christ is never referred to as the armies of heaven. The Greek word for “armies” is also translated as “men of war” and “soldiers”, and is never used in the Bible when speaking of the Church. Therefore, I believe the armies of Heaven are warrior angels who are also depicted as being dressed in white in the Bible (John 20:12, Rev. 15:6).

I believe the Church will return to the vicinity of earth in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-10) shortly after the Second Coming. In Matt. 24:29 Jesus said that immediately after the end of the Great Tribulation the Sun and moon will go dark. Then in Rev. 21:23-24 John said the nations of Earth will walk by the light of the New Jerusalem. To me this means the New Jerusalem will be earth’s source of light during the Millennium and will take its place in the vicinity of Earth shortly after the end of the Great Tribulation.

Summary: There are incredible futures in store for Israel and the Church, and each is distinct from the other. A lot of the detail is still shrouded in mystery, but from what the Bible does reveal we can catch a glimpse of just how far beyond imagining our future will be (1 Cor. 2:9). Fortunately, we won’t have long to wait, because if you listen closely, you can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 05-10-14.

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