The Family of God: Israel or the Church?
Discussing current events and how they relate to Biblical prophesy. What are some critical signs are pointing to the imminent Rapture of the Church?
In this 1943 file photo, a group of Polish Jews are led away for deportation by German SS soldiers, in April/May 1943, during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto by German troops after an uprising in the Jewish quarter.
Replacement theology is the view that the church is the new or true Israel that has permanently replaced or superseded Israel as the people of God. Another term, often found in academic circles, for replacement theology is supersessionism. Replacement theology has been the fuel that has energized Medieval anti-Semitism, Eastern European pogroms, the Holocaust and contemporary disdain for the modern state of Israel. The acceptance or rejection of supersessionism may also influence how one views the modern state of Israel and events in the Middle East. Wherever replacement theology has flourished, the Jews have had to run for cover.
Israel, like every other nation on the earth, including all Arab states, does not affirm Jesus Christ as God, Messiah, and Savior, and is, therefore, not a covenant-keeping people in relation to God. Rejecting the Son of God is rebellion against the God of the covenant.
Some believe Israel is no longer part of God’s plan and that the church has replaced Israel. Others believe that Jews can be saved by remaining faithful to Judaism without receiving Jesus. The Bible and current events show us that Israel continues to be important and relevant to God.
Are Israel and the Church the same thing?
This topic is one of the more controversial in the Church today, and it has significant implications regarding the way we interpret Scripture, especially concerning the end times. More importantly, it has great significance in that it affects the way we understand the very nature and character of God Himself.
Romans 11:16-36 records the illustration of the olive tree. This passage speaks of Israel the (“natural” branches) being broken off from the olive tree, and the Church (“wild” branches or shoots) being grafted into the olive tree. Since Israel is referred to as branches, as well as the Church, it stands to reason that neither group is the “whole tree,” so to speak; rather, the whole tree represents God’s workings with mankind as a whole. Therefore, God’s program with Israel and God’s program with the Church are part of the outworking of His purpose among men in general. Of course, this is not intended to mean that either program is of little significance. As many commentators have noted, more space is given in the Bible regarding God’s programs with Israel and with the Church than any of God’s other dealings!
In Genesis 12, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (the Jews), the Jews would possess a land, that nation would be blessed above all other nations, and all other nations would be blessed from Israel. So, from the beginning God revealed that Israel would be His chosen people on the earth, but that His blessing would not be limited to them exclusively. Galatians 3:14 identifies the nature of the blessing to come to all the other nations: “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” All the nations of the world were blessed by Israel, through whom the Savior of the world came.
God’s plan of redemption is built upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David and Abraham. But Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient for the sins of the entire world, not just the Jews! Galatians 3:6-8 states, “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” Finally, Galatians 3:29 says, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” In other words, in Christ, believers are counted righteous by faith in the same way that Abraham was (Galatians 3:6-8). If we are in Christ, then we are partakers of the blessing of Israel and all nations in the redemptive work of Christ. Believers become the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Believers do not become physical Jews, but they may enjoy the same type of blessings and privileges as the Jews.
Now, this does not contradict or nullify the revelation given in the Old Testament. God’s promises in the Old Testament are still valid, and God’s relationship with Israel as a chosen people points to the work of Christ as a Redeemer of the whole world. The Mosaic Law is still mandatory for all Jews who have not yet accepted Christ as their Messiah. Jesus did what they could not do—fulfill the Law in all its details (Matthew 5:17). As New Testament believers, we are no longer under the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13), because Christ has taken that curse upon Himself on the cross. The Law served two purposes: to reveal sin and mankind’s inability (on his own merit) to do anything about it, and to point us to Christ, who fulfills the Law. His death on the cross completely satisfies God’s righteous requirement of perfection.
God’s unconditional promises are not invalidated by the unfaithfulness of man. Nothing we do is ever a surprise to God, and He does not need to adjust His plans according to the way we behave. No, God is sovereign over all things—past, present and future—and what He has foreordained for both Israel and the Church will come to pass, regardless of circumstances. Romans 3:3-4 explains that Israel’s unbelief would not nullify His promises concerning them: “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.’”
Promises made to Israel are still going to be kept in the future. We can be sure that all God has said is true and will take place, because of His character and consistency. The Church does not replace Israel and should not expect a symbolic fulfillment of the promises of the Old Covenant. As one reads Scripture, it is necessary to keep Israel and the Church separate.
What does it mean to be a part of the family of God?
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ and the Father are One (John 1:1-4), and that He is also the only begotten Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-4). This familial term indicates God regards Jesus as a family member. Born-again believers are told that we, too, are members of this family (Romans 9:8; 1 John 3:1-2). How do we become a part of this family of God? When we hear the gospel, confess our sins, and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we are at that moment born into God’s kingdom as His children and become heirs with Him for eternity (Romans 8:14-17).
While Jesus Christ is referred to as the only begotten Son of God, believers are referred to as children born into God’s family who need to grow and mature in our faith (Ephesians 4:11-16), and as sons and heirs adopted into His family (Galatians 4:4-7). God’s infinite grace and mercy are revealed in Ephesians 1:5-6, which says He redeems sinners, whom He has “adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
As children of God, what do we inherit? Nothing less than the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Hebrews 12:28)! Ephesians 1:3 tells us that believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. These spiritual blessings are infinite, eternal, and reside in Christ, and by God’s grace we are given these blessings as His children. As earthly children we eventually inherit what our parents leave behind for us after their death. But in God’s case believers are already reaping the rewards of our inheritance by having peace with Him through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Other rewards of our inheritance include the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the moment we believe in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14), which empowers us to live for Him in the present, and the knowledge that our salvation is secure for eternity (Hebrews 7:24-25).
Being a part of the family of God is the greatest blessing bestowed upon believers and one that should drive us to our knees in humble adoration. We can never do anything to deserve it for it is His gift of love, mercy, and grace to us, yet, we are called to become sons and daughters of the Living God (Romans 9:25-26). May we all respond in faith to His invitation!
Were all the twelve Apostles Jews?
We have no good reason from Scripture or Tradition to think otherwise. Some of the Apostles had Greek names, but this was not uncommon among Jewish people in the eastern Mediterranean region of that time, given that Hellenistic culture dominated that part of the world.
In addition, the Apostles all worshipped in the Jewish temple with Jesus (presumably in the inner courts where Gentiles weren’t allowed), and they celebrated the Passover meal and other Jewish feasts with Him. So we can confidently assume, I think, that all were Jewish.
It’s also important to note that the first Christians engaged in some internal debate over whether Gentiles (non-Jews) should be baptized and allowed to enter the Church (see Acts chapters 10 and 11). If one of the Twelve whom Jesus chose as Apostles had been a Gentile, it’s hard to see how this issue would have arisen as a controversy in the early Church.
It isn’t until very late into some of Paul’s letters that there is any mention of apostles who are not Jewish (mentioned with the title/description of apostle), such as Apollos.
in fact, the gates of the New Jerusalem are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel was chosen by God to be a light to all nations (Isaiah 49:5–7; Romans 9:23–25), and God will never revoke Israel’s status as His chosen people (see Romans 11:29). The New Jerusalem thus contains a tribute to the patriarchs of Israel. It also contains a tribute to the apostles (Revelation 21:14), so both Old Testament and New Testament are represented in the city—the New Jerusalem is filled with the elect of God from all eras.
In order to understand the significance of the twelve gates being inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes, we must look to the beginning of the Old Testament, when God promised a new land and a great nation to Abraham, whose descendants would spread blessing upon all other nations (Genesis 12:1–3). To Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, whom God later named “Israel” (Genesis 32:28), twelve sons were born to establish the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49). Those twelve tribes escaped slavery in Egypt, inherited the Promised Land (Exodus 6:14; 24:4), received the Law (Exodus 20), and were chosen by God to be His covenant people (Exodus 19:5–6).
During the reign of David, out of all the territories of the tribes of Israel, God chose the city of Jerusalem in Judah as the place where God’s name would rest (2 Chronicles 12:13).
The promises to Israel apply to all of us who have been baptized in Christ, covered by His blood, and sealed by His Spirit:
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
But hold on to what you have until I come. The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations — and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery—just as I have received this from My Father. (Revelation 2:25-27)
In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:5)
I know your works. Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close. (Revelation 3:8)
Because you have kept My command to endure, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is going to come over the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming quickly. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown. (Revelation 3:10-11)
Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:20-21)
When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:
You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because You were slaughtered,
and You redeemed people
for God by Your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You made them a kingdom
and priests to our God,
and they will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:8-10)
When we were born again as SONS of God, we automatically received an INHERITANCE in CHRIST.
Jesus described to Paul what his ministry would be in Acts 26:18:
“to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an INHERITANCE among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
Ephesians 1:11: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.”
Hebrews 9:15: “He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death… that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance”
Galatians 3:26-29: “For you are all SONS of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and HEIRS according to the promise.”
Galatians 4:4-7: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are SONS, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a SON, and if a SON, then an HEIR of God through Christ.”
1Peter 1:3,4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an INHERITANCE incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
Colossians 1:12,13: “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the INHERITANCE of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”
Romans 8:15-17: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if CHILDREN, then HEIRS—HEIRS of God and joint HEIRS with Christ.”
Keeping your Lamp Full of Oil
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:1-13)
This scripture is about ten virgins. Five who were wise and have truly have given their body, mind, and spirit to the Lord and have accepted Jesus as Savior. There were five who were foolish and did not make a commitment to the Lord and were expecting to be taken with the Lord when He arrived. This is why they were refused at the door to the wedding feast, because they did not have a relationship with the Lord Jesus (I do not know you).
It is time to get ready for the banquet!
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 3:18-22)
If you are not sure that you are saved, you can accept Christ into your life right now, by praying:
“Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you in to my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior.”
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