At a time when nearly two-thirds of all Christians believe that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s program, it is very important to define who is Israel and what makes the Church or Body of Messiah. Are they the same? Does one eventually replace or supersedes the other? Are they the same but during two different eras of humankind? First, let’s look at a few definitions before we can explore the topic because our conclusion will depend greatly on how we view the Bible and how we read it AND interpret it.
Exegesis is of great import. Exegesis means “exposition or explanation.” Biblical exegesis involves the examination of a particular text of Scripture in order to properly interpret it, and as such, is a part of the process of hermeneutics.
Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. One can have a literal approach to the Scriptures or a more allegorical approach, leaving room for different interpretations over time, by various people. I don’t understand how one could possibly look at the Bible and allegorize passages right and left, simply because at first glance they don’t seem to make sense. If the Bible is God’s love letter and instruction to us, it has to mean the same thing to all people, otherwise, the relative truth found on its pages will vary greatly and chaos will proceed from that confused approach. The key is in our interpretation and good interpretation requires study–something that many people are not properly equipped to do or simply do not want to take the time to do. This being said, there is still room in the Bible for figures of speech as long as they are interpreted methodically and consistently.
Years ago, theologian David L. Cooper (1886-1965) came up with a definition that has become known as “the golden rule of interpretation.” He said, “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.”
From that, we can safely say that A TEXT WITHOUT A CONTEXT IS A PRETEXT. Furthermore, it is when we look at the Bible out of its historical/grammatical context that we derive this faulty theological approach to the Scriptures known as Replacement Theology, transferring all blessings and promises made by God to physical, ethnic Israel to the Christian Church, often seen as the “New Israel.” Keeping the proper approach, we must ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the Church and Israel: Is there biblical proof that the Church has replaced Israel? Are the Church and Israel two separate entities? If so, what are their individual purposes? Is Replacement Theology Dangerous? How different are the Church and Israel?
Let’s look at 5 differences between the Church and Israel, found in the Bible. Let’s allow the word of God to speak for itself.
1a. Israel is the Wife of Jehovah
Isaiah 54:5-6, 17 “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. 6 “For the Lord has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” … No weapon that is formed against you will prosper.
1b. The Church is the Bride of Messiah
Ephesians 5:22-25, 32 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Messiah also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Messiah, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, …32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Messiah and the church.
2a. Israel Gave Birth to the Messiah
Revelation 12:1-5 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. …5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
2b. Messiah Gave Birth to the Church
Matthew 16:18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
3a. Messiah Rescues Israel at the End of the Tribulation
Matthew 23:39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Zechariah 12:10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
3b. Messiah Rescues the Church at the Rapture
John 14:1-3 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 For if we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
4a. God’s Program with Israel Started in Genesis 12
Genesis 12:1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
4b. God’s Program with the Church Started in Acts 2
Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
5a. Israel is a Nation
Deuteronomy 4:6-8 So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? 8 Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?
5b. The Church is Made of many Nations
Acts 2:5, 9-11 5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven….9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
These are five biblical reasons why we must keep the Church and Israel separate in the Bible and in God’s program. Doing otherwise is not doing justice to the Scriptures, and when we start looking at Israel and the Jewish people as having been replaced by the Church, it is a very short road to anti-Israel sentiment, and it ends up making believers feel like they are justified in ostracizing and even demonizing Israel. A non-literal approach to God’s counsel leads to Replacement Theology which is very fertile soil for antisemitism. Christians beware!
Next week we will look at five more biblical reasons.