A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Someone wrote to ask my opinion about several theories he has read concerning the relationship between the Church and Israel. He asked, “Are the two really the same or are they supposed to be different?” Here’s my response.
The misguided effort to blend the Church and Israel into one entity continues. First it was “Replacement Theology”, the false teaching that because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, God has no more use for Israel. Instead He has transferred to the Church all of the promises He had formerly made to them. According to this view, the rebirth of Israel in 1948 was nothing more than an accident of history, not the fulfillment of prophecy. They say the only future for Israel is through the Church.
The Hebrew Roots movement takes a different road to reach the mirror image of the same destination. They claim the Gentile church has gone way off the track, having been contaminated with Greek and Roman paganism. They advocate a return to the Jewish roots of the Church by keeping the Law, the dietary restrictions, the Feasts of Israel, etc. like the original disciples did. In other words to become Torah observant. They say the only future for the Church is through Israel.
Then there’s the view called “Remnant Theology” that distinguishes between “national” Israel and “spiritual” Israel which they call “remnant Israel”. According to this view “remnant Israel” is a spiritual body just like the Church. They interpret Romans 11:17-19 to say the Church has been grafted into “remnant Israel” and they are now one and the same.
These positions all disregard the fact that in creating His Church 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). Being made new means neither group remains as they were. Paul clarified this in Galatians 3:28 when he said in the Church there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Yes, we’re all Abraham’s seed but that doesn’t mean we’re all Israel. In Genesis 12:3 God said that all the families (clans, tribes) of the earth would be blessed through Abraham.
The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that no matter how some people try to redefine things, Israel and the Church are separate entities in God’s view, and were never intended to become one. Comparing the two we can see that each has a different origin, a unique purpose, and a separate destiny. For this reason, some scholars have labeled the following comparison of Israel and the Church “Separation Theology”.
A Different Origin
Israel came to be through a sovereign act of God, creating a nation out of the direct descendants of Abraham (Genesis 12:2). Later He narrowed this down to include only those who came through Isaac, (Genesis 26:3-5) and Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15). Theirs is a national covenant conditioned upon obedience (Exodus 19:3-6).
The Church consists of individual members from every nation, tribe, people, and language who have been adopted directly into the family of God, based on our personal belief that Jesus died for our sins and rose again (John 1:12-13, Galatians 4:4-7, Romans 10:9-10). Ours is a personal covenant conditioned upon on faith.
You could say that God’s position with Israel is based on a national religion, but His position with the Church is based on a personal relationship.
A Unique Purpose
God gave Israel a four fold mission. They were to be a repository for His word (Isaiah 42:9), writing down the things He said to them, whether as history or prophecy, and preserving their accuracy. They were to be His witnesses to an unbelieving world (Isaiah 43:10). They were to be a display of His splendor (Isaiah 49:3); in them He would be glorified. And finally, they were to be the channel for the Messiah, through whom He would bring His salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:5-6).
The purpose of the Church is to be a demonstration of the incomparable riches of God’s grace in ages yet to come, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephes. 2:7), and to make known God’s manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the Heavenly realms according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephes. 3:10-11).
A Separate Destiny
Israel was given a homeland on Earth with geographic boundaries as an everlasting possession (Genesis 15:18-21). The Millennial kingdom on Earth is all about Israel and that’s why we have to look in the Old Testament for descriptions of life on Earth during that time. Passages like Isaiah 2:2-5, Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65:17-25, Ezekiel 40-48, and Micah 4:1-8 tell of an Israel restored to a position of preeminence among the nations of Earth, and of the promised land turned into a rich garden paradise where God Himself will once again dwell among His chosen people forever, just like He promised (Ezekiel 43:7).
The Church has no home on Earth. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), and our Millennial home is the New Jerusalem, an enormous entity that’s too large to fit on Earth, but will be located in Earth’s proximity (Rev. 21). John described it coming down out of heaven after the Second Coming, as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day. Nearly 1400 miles in length.width, and height, it will be two thirds the size of the moon and made of the purest gold and precious gems. This is the place Jesus has been preparing for us and to which He will take us so that we might also be where He is. If it were not so He would have told us (John 14:2-3).
Even when Israel receives the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31), there will still be a temple, a Levitical priesthood, daily sacrifices for sin, periodic Holy Days, and other requirements (Ezekiel 40-46). In the New Jerusalem there is no Temple (Rev. 21:22) and there are no additional requirements.
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.
At the rapture, the Church will depart the Earth forever to take up residence in the New Jerusalem.
Finally, in the Lord’s teaching on the Kingdom parables, Israel is represented by the treasure in the field who when a man found it, He sold all he had and bought the entire field just for the treasure (Matt. 13:44).
In Exodus 19:5-6 God said to Israel,
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession (Hebrew: my peculiar treasure). Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
At the second coming the Lord will become the King of the whole Earth (Zech 14:9), having given His life to redeem it. But His main purpose in doing so will have been to restore Israel, His treasure on Earth.
The Church is represented by the Pearl of Great Price, who when a man found it, he sold everything he had to acquire it (Matt. 13:45).
Oysters are not kosher (Lev. 11:9-12), so pearls are not prized in Israel as they are among the Gentiles. Pearls are formed when a grain of sand gets inside the oyster shell and becomes an irritant. The oyster secrets a smooth milky substance that hardens around the grain of sand and stops the irritation. When the oyster is harvested the pearl is removed from its natural habitat and placed in a fine setting to become an object of adornment.
Jesus purchased the Church on the cross, and it took everything He had. Just before the end times judgments begin, He will remove us from our natural habitat and place us in the New Jerusalem, a priceless setting, to become His object of adornment.
In summary, the Bible is quite clear in portraying Israel and the Church as two separate entities. We’re both part of His kingdom, but our origin, our purpose, and our destiny require that we always be seen as distinct from one another.
Please Don’t Misunderstand Me
None of this is intended to convey the idea that the Church shouldn’t be concerned about Israel, or interested in its history and future. Quite the contrary. God had Israel write the Bible to teach us (Romans 15:4). Events in Israel’s history were recorded as admonitions to us upon whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:11).
Israel’s Messiah is our our Lord and Savior. He was born in Israel and spent all His earthly life there. The New Testament was written by sons of Israel. It’s by observing the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel that we become aware of the impending fulfillment of New Testament prophecies concerning the Church. Aside from Israel itself, no group on Earth has a greater interest in the history and future of Israel than the Church.
The Church is not Israel and Israel is not the Church, but Israel and the Church are two sides of the same coin, and that coin is the Kingdom of God. That’s the way God sees us, and that’s what the Bible says. 05-03-14