LTRP Note: The following article by Mike Oppenheimer is a follow up to our recent article: “Letter to the Editor: What Does Lighthouse Trails Believe About Israel?.”
By Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason Ministries
Used with permission.
At a time when Bible prophecy is most important, we find the church having less knowledge of it, especially when it relates to Israel. Most evangelical Christians have supported the Jews and the modern state of Israel, but things are changing. The church from its infancy believed that God had a future plan for Israel based on Scripture (Acts 3:19), this included a national restoration of Israel in the same land they were eventually dispersed from. As time went on and the church moved further away from her Jewish beginnings and roots, many began to believe the church replaced Israel. But in the day and age when we see biblical prophecy being fulfilled, with God’s continual protection and restoration of the Jews to the land, there should be none that hold unbelief of his promises; BUT THERE ARE.
There are some within the Church that take the position that Israel as a people and a nation have no further place with God and that Israel is eternally cast off for their rejection of the Messiah. They believe that National Israel no longer has a future in the plan of God and that all the promises given to Israel are forfeited and are now transferred to the church – the church is now the true Israel. Some go so far as to say disparaging remarks like the Jewish people are now no longer a “chosen people of God” and are cursed because of their unbelief or that the Jews have inherited all the curses of the law found in Deuteronomy chapters 28-33. They believe that ALL the blessings to Israel are now transferred to the church. What they neglect is the curses included in Deuteronomy 28. If one is going to claim the blessings of Deuteronomy 28, they cannot exclude the curses. One cannot live under the old Covenant and new covenant at the same time. In fact, we will find the very opposite – God curses those who are against Israel. Deuteronomy 28 accompanies the conditional covenant of Moses, not the unconditional covenant of grace of the New Testament.
The adherents to this Replacement teaching claim the Church was in the Old Testament and was an assembly of believers, so the Church becomes the continuation of Israel. Since Pentecost of Acts 2, the term “Israel” now refers to the Church, they say. One only needs to look at how the words in the Book of Acts are used to see this is not so. If this is true, then why are there distinctions of Israel and the Church throughout the Book of Acts and why are distinguishing statements made through the epistles? This is a man-made doctrine built on a false presupposition.
The first occurrence of the Greek word ekkleesia in the New Testament is found in Matthew 16:18. The word Church (ekkleesia –assembly) is often referred to mean Israel by replacement theologians as a generic meaning for an assembly of worshipers. Thus, they assume the word Church (Ekkleesia) is a Greek word for Israel. They believe this is what Jesus Messiah meant in Matthew 16:18 for the word Church (it is used only twice in the New Testament Gospels – Matthew 18). This would mean there always was the Church (i.e., “the Church” is Israel continued in the New Testament). However, in Matthew 16:13-20, the word “church” literally means “those called out,” but it also refers to those, like Peter, who confess Jesus is the Son of the Living God, something that was not revealed in the Old Testament (this will be further explained as we look at Romans 11). These called-out ones are not in reference to the Mosaic Law that was given the nation Israel but to a whole new Covenant.
In the New Testament, the term is used also in the narrower sense of a single church, or a church confined to a particular place. There is the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (Romans 16:5); the church at Corinth; the churches in Judea; the church at Jerusalem, etc.
If one were to use the word Israel for Church throughout the New Testament, they would begin to see the problems it would create.
In Acts 8:3, Saul persecuted the Christians from house to house. He certainly was not persecuting Israel.
Acts 2:47: “And the Lord added to the church [Israel] daily those who were being saved.” Acts 8:1: Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church [Israel] which was at Jerusalem.”
Acts 11:26: “So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church [Israel] and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
And this: Acts 15:4: “And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church [Israel] and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.”
The fact that Jews were called out of unbelieving Israel to be part of the Church does, in all sense, go against the Church being Israel.
In the same way, if one switches the word church for Israel even more problems occur.
Matt 2:20 says, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel [church].”
Matt. 8:10: To those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! [the church].
Matt. 10:6: “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel [the church].”
Matt. 15:24: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel [the church].”
Matt. 19:28: “[Y]ou who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [the church]
Luke 24:21: “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel [the church].
Would it not be prudent to let the word Israel mean what it is meant in its consistent context and church be applied to what it is meant also in context? Acts 1:6: They asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (See Also Acts 3:12; 4:10; 13:24). Was he restoring the Church? Of course not.
As Israel rejected the chief Cornerstone, Peter remarks that the believers are: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
“You are built a spiritual house” – oikodomeisthe. These have become a congregation of faith among those who disbelieve.
The Nation Israel
Israel was always referred to as the nation made up of Jews who are physical descendants of not just Abraham (as are the Gentiles) but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 73 times in the New Testament the term “Israel” is used. The majority of the times it refers to national ethnic Israel. (There are three main passages used to try to prove the Church is Israel. Romans 9:6; 11:26, and Galatians 6:16. 1 Corinthians 10:18, “Israel after the flesh,” as the true, believing Israel among the unbelieving, just as in Romans 9:6 the apostle distinguishes two Israel’s, one that believes, the other unbelieving; both are ethnic Israelites, but only one has faith that keeps them in the covenant.
Galatians 6:16 is often used to prove the Church is Israel. This view believes that the Book of Galatians is concerned with Gentiles who were attempting to attain salvation through the law. The ones deceiving them were Judaizers, Jews who were demanding adherence to the Law of Moses. The “Israel of God” clearly is those Jewish believers who, in contrast with the Judaizers, followed the rule of salvation by faith alone. Paul is here speaking only of a division within ethnic Israel. Some of them are believers and thus truly Israel, whereas others, though ethnically Israelites, are not truly Israel, since they are not believing . . . No Gentiles are found in the statement at all.
This replacement view is often held within groups such as Reconstructionists, Dominionists, and Kingdom Now adherents who are mainly not Premillennial (those who hold to Postmillenialism, Amillennialism and Preterism).
God has an unconditional commitment to the people of Israel; He has made a covenant and cannot break His Word. There are those in the “church” who take the position that the first covenant promises to the Jews are nullified and void. Paul makes it clear to the church in Rome, “Has God cast away His people (the Jews), CERTAINLY NOT? Or God forbid” (Romans 11:1). On this alone, we have evidence that replacement teaching is wrong. In Ezekiel 36, God makes it very clear that He will never abandon Israel. Not for their sakes, but because His Name and His reputation are on the line. Jeremiah writes right after the promise of a new covenant: “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name)” and “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever” (Jeremiah 31:31, 35-36). For Israel to no longer be a nation would mean the sun, moon, and stars would also not exist.
God cut a blood covenant (unconditional) with Abraham: “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great. I will make you a blessing. I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who curse you. In you all the families of the world will be blessed!” (Gen. 12:1-3). This has not been revoked. To this nation, God will give a land; the land of Canaan (Genesis12:1, 7; 13:14-15, 17; 15:17-21; 17:8). God will bless those who bless this nation and curse those who curse it (12:3) God laid down a divine principle that has been seen and proven throughout history.
When you go against Israel (curse the people like Balak tried to get Balaam to do), you are going against the Messiah who created Israel to be a blessing to all nations.
Another point to take into account is Joel 3:2: “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.”
Genesis 12:7: And Yahweh appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto your seed will I give this land and there built an altar unto Yahweh, who appeared unto him.” He promised a Land; specifically, the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14-15, 17; 15:17-21; 17:8).
The emphasis of Genesis 17 (Genesis 17:9-14) is on the token of the covenant: physical circumcision on the eighth day of a boy’s life. Circumcision was to be a sign of one’s Jewishness, the seal of the covenant.
God chose to confirm the covenant with Jacob, as seen in Genesis 28:13-15. Then it was confirmed through all of Jacob’s twelve sons, who fathered the twelve tribes that made up the nation of Israel (Genesis 49).
Israel was given laws and ways to be distinguished and separate from the Gentiles; now we have teachers saying the Gentile church is now Israel. For those who are Gentile who claim they are the true Jews because of their belief in the Messiah and now replace Israel, Jesus has this to say: Those who say they are Jews but are not, Jesus calls them liars; they are of the synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9 and 3:9)
The promises made to both Abraham and his seed show that blessings have not yet received complete fulfillment but await the Messianic Kingdom. The Abrahamic Covenant contains both physical and spiritual promises. The physical blessings were limited to the Jews (such as the land), the spiritual blessings were to extend to the Gentiles through the Messiah only (being grafted into the Olive tree). In the Old covenant, the Gentiles had to convert to the religion of Judaism (but this still did not make them Jewish).
God revealed that it was to be through Sarah’s son Isaac that the Abrahamic Covenant would be confirmed (Gen. 26:2-5, 24). Some examples of this include: Exodus 2:23-25; 4:24-26; 6:2-8; 32:11-14; Leviticus 26:46; Deuteronomy 34:4; II Kings 13:22-23; I Chronicles 16:15-19; II Chronicles 20:7-8; Nehemiah 9:7-8; Psalm 105:7-12; Luke 1:54-55, 68-73; and Hebrews 6:13-20. These verses explain that the Abrahamic Covenant is the basis for Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, for giving them the Land, for Jewish survival throughout the centuries in spite of disobedience, for the coming of the Messiah, the resurrection of the dead, and for Israel’s final redemption and restoration.
Israel has become the focus for the world, and unfortunately, much of the Church no longer believes in the nation’s relevance today. It is Satan who has instigated hatred towards the Jewish people throughout the centuries; in the end, he will be furious and will do everything possible to annihilate them (far worse than what Hitler had in mind and accomplished).
Any doctrine or interpretation must be from the context of Scripture and its complete teaching on the subject (both Old and New Testament passages) and not based upon a single verse. We must take the whole counsel of God’s Word. When we study Israel, there is a major amount in the Bible concerning the people, the nation, and its future. Replacement theology and its antagonistic view of Israel are perpetuating an anti-Semitic stance in the Church.
What one believes about Israel is of utmost importance to understanding the Bible and the end times. It should be apparent when we study the Word; Old Testament promises made to national Israel will literally be fulfilled in the future just as they were literally fulfilled in the past. The details needed are found in the Old Testament, and we find Paul and John in the book of Revelation often draw on a number of passages to prove their points.
If Israel is no longer God’s “chosen people,” we find numerous problems springing from this position that cannot be reconciled with God’s character or His promises.
Romans 11 contains Scripture passages important to understand. To get the complete picture, Chapters 1-10 of Romans needs to be thoroughly read. Romans 1, and going into Romans 2, points out that no one has an excuse because the evidence of the truth of God has been with us from the beginning, even found in nature.
Romans 2 discusses the Jew and the law. It points out the futility of trying to obtain salvation through the law, that Jews do not have any advantage over the Gentiles for salvation. That all have sinned. The law shows us how short we fall of God’s holiness. In fact, the Jews who have more knowledge of God will have more to answer for. The chapter closes with the statement that it is not enough to be circumcised externally to be a Jew, but rather God’s concern is for the heart to be changed, not change in the flesh but in the inner man.
In Romans 3-8, we are told that the Jews had an advantage over the Gentiles in that they were given the truth of God’s Word (the oracles of God) and were entrusted to keep it. However, both the Jew and Gentile have sinned, and the law did not justify them, neither one is justified outside of faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul raises the question regarding the place of Israel in Romans 9, 10, 11. In Chapter 9:3, he said: “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” If the Church replaced Israel, this could not be stated. However, we need to pay attention to how Paul defines Israel throughout the book of Romans and his other epistles.
It’s obvious that the Covenant is still in effect to Israel because of what Paul states earlier in the same letter to the Romans. He goes on to identify his people, distinguishing them from the Gentiles and the Church. Romans 9:4-5: “who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” Certainly, these are not Gentiles – not the Church – of which he is speaking.
Let Us Reason Ministries
Used with permission.