Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Israel And The Church (Part II) So What?

Having established that there is a distinction in the New Testament between Israel and the Church (while yet honoring a continuity), a good question would be, "so what?" I'll just mention a limited selection of implications, but the list really could be made quite lengthy.

First, here are some examples of failing to keep this distinction: Mormonism, which would so hold that they replace Israel that their official doctrine includes the establishment of the Kingdom and building of the Temple on the American continent (hmmm . . . would that influence Mitt Romney's presidential leadership??); Assemblies of Yahweh/Jehovah's Witnesses/other "Sacred Name" cults - all tend to think they are the new Israel and do Israelite-type-things in their systems, such as Jewish festivals, new moon celebrations, Sabbath observance; though not "Sacred Name", Seventh-Day groups whether "Adventists", "Baptists", have the same problem; Roman Catholicism (amillenialism) is also a "replace Israel" program with a new priestly class, buildings designed to replicate the tabernacle/temple with a holy of holies where only the priest is to go (Protestant amillenialism does the same thing in concept, but not in physical practice because of the "spiritualizing" tendency of their hermeneutic); I rather cringe when I see an edifice with the name "Baptist Temple" (and of course there are Mormon temples - is their a difference?). Keeping the distinction helps us keep God's people away from all such nonsense.

Second, this distinction should keep us aware that God yet has a future program for Israel. All of God's warnings and promises to Israel will come to pass. If this is "spiritualized" rather than "actualized", how would any believer of the current age be able to trust that God's promises will be actually fulfilled for them. There is an actual geo-political future for Israel promised by God (yes the Church will rule and reign in this too, but if it does not happen there will be nothing to rule!). This is what makes the Church (made up of both Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles) the strongest supporter of Israel on earth today. Because of the lack of keeping the distinction there is massive confusion among professing "evangelicals" as to what their posture towards Israel should be (see for example < > and <>). Even worse, some "evangelicals" are cuddling with Islam in a way that denies the very heart of biblical truth-claims (the Bible, the Trinity, etc.) and insults Israel (see <>). For a great example of how to get this right, see Randall Price - "Should Christians Support Israel? (available at <>).

Third, this distinction enables the believer in Christ to stay focused on the Blessed Hope, the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Post-tribulational, mid-tribulational, pre-wrath, and partial-rapture theories of eschatology all ignore the distinction between Israel and the Church. As a result, they project coming tribulational terrors and judgments promised to Israel (and the unregenerate world) onto the Church. Thus, they are more focused on tribulational events than the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, there can be pre-tribulational rapturists who forget that "signs of the times" are for Israel, forget that the rapture is a signless event, and thus are more interested in looking for signs (earthquakes, famines, etc.) than for Jesus - this too is problematic. The distinction between Israel and the church is essential for understanding the New Testament doctrine of the imminency of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in the air to resurrect/catch-up His Church.

Fourth, this distinction produces a heart for Jewish evangelism. "To the Jew first" is taken seriously by those who love Israel. It is not that those who do not share this distinction may not have an interest in Jewish evangelism either. But it certainly is true that most ministries dedicated to the evangelism of Jews do.

Other blessings and understandings flow from this distinction as well. I hope this encourages your ministry and the thinking through of such issues for the glory of Christ.


  1. There are those of differing rapture positions who maintain a clear distinction between Israel and the church. To say "Post-tribulational, mid-tribulational, pre-wrath, and partial-rapture theories of eschatology all ignore the distinction between Israel and the Church" is categorizing many dispensationalists who do not agree with the PreTrib position into a category that they do not belong. This is just one example, there are other positions besides dispensationalism that maintain a distinction between Israel and the church.

    I am PreWrath but not dispensationalist, at least there is no dispensationalist position that I can agree with yet. But I hold a clear distinction between the church and Israel.

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  2. There is a danger in conflating a "geo-political future for Israel promised by God" with uncritical and undiscerning support for contemporay Israeli politics that cause irreparable harm to, say, Palestinian Christians. The Church should not be a rubber stamp for Israeli policy towards Palestinians that fly in the face of Christ's witness for justice and righteousness in exchange for some future eschatological hope. After all, Christ's return has been "imminent" since the days of Paul. Israelis and Palestinians are suffering now.

  3. Dear Orange Mailman . . .

    Thanks for your comment. I am sorry it seems to have gotten lost for a while, and now showed up - ??.

    You will notice I have deliberately avoided using the "d" word (dispensational) in my articles. This is because I do not want to get lost in a discussion about undefined positions (I've avoided the "c" word, covenantal, for the same reason). So at this point I have not categorized any dispensationalists as anything, and have not even categorized myself as one (until you define what you mean by it, and then maybe I'll see if I agree; I am not trying to defend a word).

    Now, here is why I say that the pre-wrath, along with partial rapture, mid-trib, and post-trib positions do not keep the distinction clear between God's program for Israel and God's program for the Church. The 70th Week of Daniel from Daniel 9 is for Israel (and I actually prefer the term "pre 70th week rapture" to "pre-trib" because that is more precise to me). In fact all 70 Weeks are for Israel and her Messiah, not the Church. So, to put any part of the Church Age into the 70 Weeks is to deny the distinction. This counters the preterist position on the 70 Weeks as well since they try to put the last 40 years or so into the Church Age until AD 70.

    Thanks for your good and helpful comment.

  4. Dear Bill . . .

    My apologies to you also for your comment not appearing til now. I'm not quite sure what happened, but glad we're catching up.

    Thank you for your comment, and your warning. You have made a valuable statement, with which I agree. The Israeli government is not always right. Mindless "Christian Zionism" is not what I want to be lumped in with (i.e. John Hagee & co.).

    Having had this conversation with several Palestinian Christians, they have told me that they agree with what I have said. They understand that the promise of the land is to Israel in the future, and would be pleased if that started now.