Did God replace Israel with the Church?

Did God replace Israel with the Church?

No. 

If we fail to distinguish between the Church and Israel, we will have difficulty in interpreting the Bible, especially in regards to prophecy.  

The Church is distinct from the nation of Israel.  Israel is God’s chosen people who have specific promises (land, king) that are eternal and irrevocable.  There is still much that God is going to do with Israel.
A common error is to teach that Israel was the Church of the Old Testament and the believers of the New Testament are just another manifestation of the chosen people of God.  It is taught that since the Jews rejected Christ, God has rejected them forever.  That leaves room to say that the Church is the new Israel in sprit.  All promises that were given to Israel would therefore apply to the Church of the New Testament.


It can be shown from a few verses that God still sees a future for Israel as well as sees a distinction between Israel and the Church.


The Bible makes a division of the world into three groups:

1 Corinthians 10:32 "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God."

  • The Jews – Israel
  • The Gentiles – the unconverted, unsaved of the world.
  • The church of God – all believers in today’s period of grace.

 
    In Acts 15:14-17 divides the world in the same way:

The Church

God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name (v. 14).

Israel

After this I will return, and will build you the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up (v. 16).


The Gentiles

That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things (v. 17).

    
Again we see the same division in Ephesians and Colossians:
    the Jews-the circumcision made with hands (Eph. 2:11).
    the Gentiles-the uncircumcision (Eph. 2:11).
    the Church-the circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11)

What difference does it make?

Israel will one day have a son of David sit on the throne in Jerusalem.  This kingdom will have no end.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  (Luke 1:31-33)


All Israel will be saved.  They will repent and receive Christ and be forgiven for their sins.

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

(Romans 11:25-28)

Currently, most of the Jewish people are not saved.  Only a “remnant” is saved.

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day."

(Romans 11:5-8)

When the Jews did not receive Christ as their Chosen One, they were temporarily set aside.  No longer does God work through them to accomplish his work on earth.  They will remain in this dormant state until Christ returns. The work of God with the Jews has been put on “pause” until God is done working with the Gentiles.


Three phrases tell us about this time of parenthesis:


1.  The riches of the Gentiles (Rom_11:12) is the great blessing that falls to the Gentile nations through salvation by faith in Christ.  The Gentiles are spiritual rich while the Jews remain in poverty.
2.  The fullness of the Gentiles (Rom_11:25) is the time allowed to the Gentiles to be saved.  When Christ completes the church with the last soul saved, He will come again to rapture the church home.  That will mark the end of the Gentile’s time of salvation.
3.  The times of the Gentiles (Luk_21:24) refers to the political domination of Gentile nations over the nation of Israel.  The Gentiles have been asserting control over Jerusalem ever since the last king of Juda was led captive to Babylon in 521 B.C.  The times of the Gentiles will end when Christ liberates Jerusalem (Revelation 18).

The Mystery of the Church

The Church is “a mystery”.  A mystery is a doctrine that was kept hidden from Old Testament believers but has been revealed to us now.  The fact that the Church was a mystery means that it is something new in comparison to the Old Testament.

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

(Ephesians 3:6-10)

The Beginning of the Church

The Church had it’s start on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  The Church did not exist before this date.  In Matthew 16:18, Christ spoke of the Church as a future event yet to be fulfilled.  

Entrance Requirements

To become a member of the nation of Israel, one must be born to Jewish parents.  To become a member of the Church, one must be born again.  One must receive Christ to become a member of the Church.

Spiritual Benefits

If a person is born a Gentile they are naturally without hope and without God. Gentiles which here are called the "Uncircumcision" suffered two types of separation. For centuries, the Jews looked upon the Gentiles as lower-classed, rejected, dogs, alienated peoples who were in darkness. Seconldly, the Gentiles were separted spiritually:

1) they were "separated from Christ". They had no Messiah, no Savior, no Redeemer.  They had no hope of ever coming to God without a mediator to bring them.
2) They were "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel." The people of Israel being God's chosen people enjoyed the only physical place on earth where God dwelled and worked.  Without being part of the nation, people were alienated.
3) They were "strangers to the covenants of promise," aliens to God's blessings. While the church doesn't have the priviledge of participating in all the Covenants of the inheriting the Land - "To your offspring I give this land" (Genesis 15:18) or of having the King rule over them - "And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. " (2 Samuel 7:8-17), the church does enjoy the blessings that come from the Covenant of Promise that God made with Abraham that "and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).
4) They were "having no hope". They were lost and had no possibility of changing their future.
5) They were "without God in the world." While they had many gods, they did not have the One True God.

 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

(Ephesians 2:11-12)


However, once a person is in Christ, the barriers that kept Gentiles away from God's blessings are removed.  God created a third group, the Church, in which both Jews and Gentiles enjoy intimacy with God and blessings.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

(Ephesians 2:13-18)


Conclusion

God defines the nation of Israel as his people.  They may have been set aside, but they are not forgotten.  The promises regarding an eternal kingdom for Israel should not be allegorized into some undefined blessing for the Church.  God has preserved the Jews throughout the centuries as a distinct people.  God is preserving them for the Day of Christ when he comes again and begins to work with them to fulfill all that was written about them.

 

Shad Sluiter