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The fact many do not want to recognize is that most of the Bible was written to Israel, the Jew, God's chosen people. The covenant promises (both unilateral and bilateral) were to Israel, not Gentiles. Yes, we Gentiles were grafted in but only after, by and through the death, burial and resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-22. For example, during the time of Christ prior to his crucifixion and resurrection animal sacrifice was in full swing. I understand that according to Flavius Josephus, a 1st century Hebrew historian, up to one million animals was sacrificed per year. During his earthly ministry Christ never told anyone to discontinue the sacrificial system. In Matthew 10:5-8 after Jesus chose his disciples and commissioned them: "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (There is no mention of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.) Consider this, Quite some time (months) later the disciples returned from their mission, the five thousand are fed, Jesus walks on the sea, healings at Gennesaret, four thousand are fed, the blind man healed and Peter’s confession of faith. (Matt. 14, Luke 9, and John 6). In Luke 9:44 The Lord said: "Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men" Luke 9:45 "But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying." What were they preaching? The same message John the Baptist was preaching. The "Kingdom Gospel". Search as you will but there was "NO" requirement for the Jews to believe in Christ's death, burial and resurrection. Those who were closest to him even after being told did not understand what he meant by it. In Mark's account of the transfiguration as they left the mountain we read in verse 9: "And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead." Now look at the next verse. Mark 9:10 "And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." As late as John 20:9 "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead." Luke 24:44-45 "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures," It seems very popular today for people to try and claim the covenant promises never realizing that the "Kingdom" promises were made to Israel. First mention of the "Church" is in Matthew 16:18. Christ said: “I WILL build” not “I have built”. Any and all individuals during this present Church age who are truly born again believers and eternally saved are required to believe in Christ's death, burial and resurrection. (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Those wishing to practice Judaism and legalism need an altar, a high priest and a herd of sheep. Otherwise listen to the Apostle Paul as he addressed the church at Galatia, warning them of Judiazers that were perverting the Gospel of Grace. Galatians 3:1-3 “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
It seems as if everyone has an opinion on “Who is Isra'el?” “Who is the Church?” “Are they the same thing?” “Does God still have a plan for Isra'el?” I am no different in that I also have a strongly-held opinion that drives my understanding of my identity, my responsibility to God’s covenant, and my place in God’s family. No one is perfected in his views. In truth, all of the differing views must logically carry some weight of truth to them, so I greatly appreciate a forum such as this where we can present our differing views in a Spirit of love and mutual respect, even in the midst of our disagreements. We all need each other. May God grant us grace as we continue to study his Word for greater and greater insights from the text. So here is what I hold to. I will try to be succinct: Short Answers: I will answer the two questions head on and then attempt to substantiate my answers from the text. Q: Are Isra'el and the Church the same thing? A: Well…yes…and no. Isra'el exists on two levels: National Isra'el, and Remnant Isra'el. The Church exists within Remnant Isra'el, and Remnant Isra'el exists within National Isra'el. I will flesh this out with verses below… Q: Does God still have a plan for Isra'el? A: Absolutely. Messiah is the head of Remnant Isra'el, and even though National Isra'el doesn't have faith in Yeshua yet, nevertheless, God the Father is still going to bring National Isra'el to her knees in repentance someday. Longer Answers: Paul sets up the Olive Tree example in Rom. 11:11-24. In Rom. 11:16, he teaches that if the root is holy then the branches are holy. I take the Olive Tree to be the family of Isra'el and the root to be the Patriarchs. The “holy” aspect is Paul teaching the set-apartness of the Patriarchs from the rest of the world unto God, making his offspring (all the tree’s branches) also set apart from the world unto God. Abraham the “nourishing root” is the exemplar of faith for all of his “branches,” but especially for the Remnant who live among the other “unsaved natural branches,” and for the grafted in branches, because of his faith in the Promised Word of the LORD (Gen. 15:6). The root cannot be Yeshua (Jesus), because Paul teaches elsewhere in this book that we cannot be separated from the love of God in Messiah (Rom. 8:38, 39), yet branches get broken off from this tree (Rom. 11:17-21). Also, Paul warns the Gentile Christians not to suppose that they support the root (Rom. 11:18). This makes no sense if the root is Yeshua, for no Christian in history has ever made such a supposition. The branches being broken off are some of the members of National Isra'el, whom God prunes because of lack of faith in Yeshua (Rom. 11:19, 20), in order to make way for Gentile Christians who demonstrate faith in Yeshua. IMPORTANT: these “wild olive branch” Gentiles are grafted among the Remnant of Isra'el, not into National Isra'el. Notice Paul does NOT say how the Remnant came to be in the tree. That is because, like Paul himself, they were born into their own Olive Tree. Remnant Isra'el are natural branches that graduated to faith in Yeshua—also a son of Abraham—making them the Remnant that still dwells in the same Olive Tree as National Isra'el. In the pruning of natural branches (some of the unsaved Jews), Paul doesn't say they are completely cut off from Isra'el, because if they, like believing Jews and Gentiles, place their faith in Yeshua, they too can be grafted back into their own Olive Tree, but this time it will be as Remnant Isra'el (Rom. 11:23, 24). In fact, Paul goes even further to suggest that since the gospel is essentially a culturally Hebrew concept engrained in the lives of the Hebrews and transmitted through the Scriptures they revere, then it is more natural for a Jew to believe in a Messiah than it is for a “wild olive branch” to believe in him (read Rom. 11:24 and catch the meaning of the “wild by nature,” and “contrary to nature” illustrations).
In Hebrews 8:13, Paul tells these former Jews that "In that He (God) says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first (covenant) obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." The Old Testament or Covenant is obsolete. What does God do with something that is obsolete? He replaces it with something that is superior in every way...the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus is a superior king to any of the kings of the Israelites, He is superior to any of the prophets, He is superior to any of the High Priests. He is the head of the church - Eph. 5:23 Both the "land and nation" promises to Israel were fulfilled - Joshua 23:15, and Israel was found wanting. God has fulfilled the "seed promise" through the Jews (lineage of Judah), and has begotten a Savior for the entire world - John 3:16
Churches in the bible are certainly confused today. It is imperative to understand this issue in order to possess the faith required for our salvation. We start by studying the bible the way God tells us to. We must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15), the gospel of our salvation (Eph 1:13), from the gospel of Jesus while living and of the apostles to biblical Israel (Mat 10:6, Mat 15:24). 1st – Abraham’s belief in God was counted to him as righteousness for God (Gen 15:6). God established His covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:2) which transcended to national (biblical) Israel (Isaiah 41:8). This is literally a covenant with biblical Israel, and not anyone alive today or anyone other than biblical Israel during biblical times. 2nd – After Israel as a nation rejected Christ, Peter's church of God was established for the Hebrews that did believe Christ was their prophesied Messiah (Mat 16:18, 1 Thes 2:14). They had to believe in His name, meaning belief that He was in fact the Christ (1 Peter 4:14, John 3:16). This church was not for Gentiles then or anyone living today (Mat 10:6, Mat 15:24). Faith in Christ’s name plus works for salvation was required for the believing Hebrews (James 2:26). Israel’s receiving of their promised earthly kingdom was put on hold due to their unbelief in Jesus being the Christ (Acts 1:7, Rom 11:25). 3rd – Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, was made to be sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). His death on the cross served as forgiveness of our sins (Col 2:13, 2 Cor 5:19). He was buried, but death had no power over Him (Rom 14:9). He rose from the grave for our justification (Rom 4:25) and left sin in the ground (Rom 8:2). Believers are sealed with the holy Spirit of promise (Eph 1:13) until the day of redemption (Eph 4:30), and are now hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3) as members of the church which is His body (Eph 1:22-23). Faith alone in Christ’s finished cross work is the only means for salvation today (Gal 2:16). In fact, works with the belief that it is to obtain or maintain salvation actually puts us in debt with God (Rom 4:4) as this shows lack of faith in what Jesus Christ did for us. We should certainly work for God once we have faith alone, but not work with the belief that it is needed in addition to what Jesus did on our behalf (1 Cor 15:3). Jesus Christ did all the work necessary (2 Cor 5:21). We just have to believe that and add nothing to it. God shows His love for us (Rom 5:8) with the unmerited gift of salvation made available by his grace (Eph 2:8). Our belief is how we receive His free gift (1 Thes 2:13). The fellowship of the mystery that was hid in God since the world began (Rom 16:25, Eph 3:9) was only revealed to our apostle Paul after Christ’s resurrection and ascension to Heaven. Had Satan known this mystery information, he would not have crucified the world’s savior (1 Cor 2:8). Christ's message to Paul for the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, including us today, was very different from that of Peter to the believing Hebrews only (Eph 3:2, Col 1:25, 1 Cor 1:23). There is no longer a difference in Jew nor Gentile (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11) in this “but now” (Rom 3:21) dispensation of God’s grace (Eph 3:2) that we currently live in. Believers are members of the church the body of Christ and have spiritual blessings and a heavenly (not earthly) kingdom that awaits us (Eph 1:3). Doctrine for today is found in the 13 epistles of Paul, Romans through Philemon. Lastly, God will establish his new covenant with biblical Israel when Christ returns to Earth for His millennial reign over their promised earthly kingdom (Acts 1:6-7, Jer 33:14). Members of the church the body of Christ will be “caught away” (1 Thes 4:17, 1 Thes 5:9) prior to Israel’s tribulation and Christ’s millennial reign.
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