What is the Real Connection between Israel and the Church?

The obvious and superficial answer to this question is simple – Yeshua, the Christ. But to understand that answer, one must look deeper into how and for what purpose does Jesus Christ achieve this connection. It involves an understanding of what Christ has done, is now doing, and plans to do in relationship to Israel and his faithful body of believers. The work that Christ is doing can be seen through several topical frameworks:

  • Redemption of humanity
  • The kingdom of God
  • The mystery of God
  • God’s righteous judgment
  • The covenants

For this article, I’m going to focus on just one; the kingdom of God.

For a look at the work Christ is doing through the Mystery of God, Discover more.

In a companion article, entitled Do You See the Three Kingdoms?, I outline the distinct stages through which Christ is building his kingdom. In its finality, the earthly reign of Christ results in a divine kingdom which is handed over to the Father at the end of the age (1 Corinthians 15:22-26). Specifically we’ll focus on Christ’s kingdom-building process through the ages with the nation of Israel and with those who were not a people – the Gentiles.

Kingdom-Building in Israel

Let’s begin where Israel began, at the foot of the mountain of God. Here, God reveals his underlying intent and purpose for redeeming the descendants of Jacob and gathering them as his people.

Exodus 19:1-6 (ESV)
1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Israel’s original purpose was to continue as part of the covenant God made with their forefather Abraham. They were established by God, even before Abraham, to be his portion among the nations(1) (Deuteronomy 32:8-14). Through them God would fulfill his promise that Abraham’s descendants would be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 22:15-18). Those blessings were always contingent upon the terms of the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). This too was to be an example to the nations of the trustworthiness of God and the faithfulness of his word (Deuteronomy 29:24-28).

Yet Israel strayed from the path and from the covenant, and went after foreign gods who were not God. In response, God fulfilled his covenant with them and dispersed them among the nations as he promised.

Deuteronomy 32:16,19-21
16They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. . . . 19The Lord saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. 20And he said, I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. 21They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

God would mete out to them the same disregard which they exhibited toward him(2). As his chosen people, they went after other gods. He, as their true God, would go after other people; the Gentiles. Paul goes into great detail about the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles to whom he was bringing the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Romans 10:19-21
19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 
20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

When observing the history of the descendants of Jacob (Israel), from their exodus out of Egypt to the time of Yeshua, the Christ, there is one description that seems apt; a disobedient and contrary people. This trend of disobedience, together with idolatry, seemed to escalate sometime after the reign of Solomon, and it has continued down-hill since. It was Solomon, King David’s son, who built the first temple of God in Jerusalem. It seems ironic that as the presence of God among the Israelite people became more outwardly evident, the lack of his presence in their hearts became so predominant that the Apostle Paul described them as enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:28).

If Israel, including the tribe of Judah, exists, as many teach, in a state of rejection from God and has been replaced by the church, how is it Paul says they are not rejected?

Romans 11:1-2a
1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. . .

Paul goes on to reveal God’s underlying purpose for Israel’s temporary rejection and how it serves his purpose to bring the entire world into obedience to Yeshua, the Christ.

Romans 11:11-12
11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Paul drives the point even further. Notice the veracity of his statement about their calling in verse 29. In spite of their temporary dismissal, they too will ultimately receive God’s mercy.

Romans 11:28-32
28 As regards the gospel, they (Israel) are enemies for your (Gentiles) sake. But as regards election, they (Israel) are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you (Gentiles) were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they (Israel) too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

The unifying value of Paul’s discourse in Romans 11 is his claim that some in Israel have received the promises which Israel as a whole has not obtained. Let’s look at it more closely.

Romans 11:2b-7
2b Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,

Notice also how Paul clarifies that not all of Israel was cut off so that the Gentiles could be grafted in, only some were (Romans 11:17). This faithful remnant has already received, through grace, the election and promises being extended now to the Gentiles. The implications of this are significant. If it proves to be what it implies, then we can be certain that it changes the way we view this dispensation and the saints who compose it, those who precede it, and those who come after.

  • The current dispensation expands, not divides, the distribution of God’s grace to include the Gentiles. This is an inclusive perspective instead of the exclusive one presented by many.
  • Faith, trust, and belief in God (which are a gift from God) transcends the covenants and dispensations. Consider the following:
    • Christ is the God of the old covenant
    • If faith in God saves, than those in the previous dispensation, through belief, received salvation, righteousness, and all the benefits of being in the body of believers, though perhaps unknowingly
    • This began with a Gentile, Abraham, and will ironically end with the Gentiles. In other words, God intends to be the God of humanity, not just the God of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
    • The faithful descendants of Abraham are considered firstfruits to salvation

Though some would try to divide the faithful of the old covenant from the faithful of the new, this is the very thing Christ seeks to unite. At first there does appear to be a division, not of faith, but of role and purpose. This Paul clearly identifies in Romans – in that the stumbling of the Jews and the disbelief in Israel was, according to God’s will, an invitation and inclusion of the rest of the world (the Gentiles) to his grace and the resulting promises.

The Sheep Follow the Shepherds

To understand God’s stance on this subject we must note that the people of Israel did not just wander off into idolatry on their own. They were in large part led there. Some of these shepherds were their kings and priests, others were of a divine nature. These shepherds failed, and led Israel away from the God who delivered them out of bondage to follow lesser gods of wood and stone. Through Christ’s work, God will replace the shepherds of Israel with new leadership, and a righteous branch from David will reign as king.

Jeremiah 23:1-6
1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

At the time Christ sets up his earthly kingdom, these new shepherds will have the heart of the Lord. Through Christ, God will fulfill his promise to David regarding his descendants ruling over Israel. In doing so, he will multiply the priests that serve him in righteousness (Jeremiah 33:17-22).

Jeremiah 3:15-18
15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.

The Lord will extend resurrection to Israel and will lead them to a place where death is not the victor, but life (Psalm 86:8-13; Hosea 13:9-14). This is perhaps a reference by Hosea to the resurrection spoken of in Ezekiel 37. In the past I would have related this event to the Great White Throne Judgment, but seeing the work of restoration the Lord intends for Israel it seems very fitting that it occur during or after the remnant of Israel is gathered and receives the new covenant. (Zechariah 12)

Ezekiel 37:1-14

  • Ezekiel is shown a valley of dry bones
  • The Lord declares – I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live
  • The bones came together, each to its proper position
  • Sinews of flesh were laid upon the bones & skin covered them
  • And breath came to them and they lived
  • They stood up as an exceedingly great army
  • These are the children of Israel and will be brought into their own land.
  • Prior to this the Lord gathered those alive, who were scattered among the nations, and returned them to their own land. Now it appears he gathers those from the grave.
  • For what purpose? And you shall know that I am the Lord.
  • I will put My Spirit in you and you shall live, and in your own land
  • Then you will know – I have spoken it and I will do it

It seems fitting that at this time, when the Lord is restoring Israel as a nation, they should now receive his spirit and enter into a new covenant unlike the one they stumbled over previously. And what an example this will be to the remaining Gentile nations of the world! They’ve seen the destructive power of God in his wrath. Now they will see the life-giving power of God also.


To discover more about Christ’s plans for Israel and Judah, read my recent book . . .

The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View

Gentiles Called to be a Kingdom of Priests

The blessed hope of those called into the body of Christ is the expectation of receiving salvation and the inheritance promised them by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As recipients of the New Covenant in Christ, this indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the primary factor which leads them into obedience as they exercise the gift of faith. As you might have noticed with hardened Israel, it was a lack of faith and pursuing their own righteousness which prevented them from attaining what they sought (Romans 10:1-4). The key differentiator for believers in this age and for Israelites in the future kingdom is the same – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Both find their righteousness in Christ – the Son of God; both respond to the faith delivered to them (Jeremiah 23:6); and both trade the enmity between them and God for reconciliation through their Redeemer. (Romans 5:20-21; 8:9-11; Philippians 3:8-11)

Another equally vital expectation for the body of believers is the fulfillment of their role as priestly rulers in Christ’s earthly kingdom.

Revelation 5:9-10
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals, for you were slain,
    and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation, 
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth
.”

As Daniel’s prophecy in Chapter Two of his book focuses on Israel’s participation as recipients of a kingdom without end (Daniel 2:44-45), his later prophecy shows that God’s faithful saints are the inheritors of that kingdom (Daniel 7:9-14, 18, 22, 27). We should also note that this inheritance of the kingdom by the saints of the Most High does not come without challenges (Daniel 7:21) – As I looked, this horn (that spoke great things) made war with the saints and prevailed over them (Revelation 13:5-8). Yet as we should well know, the inheritance promised to us is secure even beyond death.

Though our focus is on Christ’s earthly reign in his coming kingdom, it would be negligent to ignore the work which has been done and he’s doing now to prepare for that kingdom. Most would agree that that work of faith began with Abraham (a Gentile) and continues to this day. The gift of faith carries with it certain promises. One of the promises that enables us to participate in the preparation of the kingdom is the very promise that ensures our inheritance of that kingdom – the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1).

Though we live now through faith under him to whom all authority has been given, we know that the full experience of his kingdom, our inheritance, is yet future. Those faithful to the new covenant are preparing now for that future kingdom. In part they experience the kingdom rule daily in that they surrender their lives to God and his Christ, waiting for the fulfillment of his promises and his established reign over all the nations. (Hebrews 9:15)

  • The inheritance of the kingdom is promised by God to those who love him. It is those who are rich in faith that are heirs of the kingdom (James 2:5)
  • God has called us to his glory and excellence, and has granted us his precious and great promises – to be partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4)

This expectation of rulership in the kingdom is both integral and an essential part of the promised inheritance.

  • Each believer, like a living stone, is being built up in Christ as a spiritual house to be part of a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-5)
  • They are called and chosen to be a royal priesthood that they may proclaim the excellence of him who called us into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Scripture has much to say about Christ’s called, chosen, and faithful body of believers. Discover more.

Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth has created after himself – the called, chosen and faithful, the firstfruits to the resurrection, and a kingdom of priests to his God (Romans 8:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10). These will reign with Christ Jesus for 1000 years on the earth (Revelation 5:10).

Just as the zeal of the Lord will lead Israel as a whole to the New Covenant, so he will also complete the new creation work in his body of believers. In doing so he not only fulfills the will of his Father, he also glorifies himself (1 Corinthians 1:4-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:10).

Conclusion

The hopes for both Israel and the faithful in Christ all point to seeking his return. It is then that Christ will fulfill his promises to both groups. At the point of our Lord’s return the saints have been united with Him and have received the inheritance of the kingdom he prepared for them. This group of saints includes any faithful in Israel’s past or present. Together with the called, chosen and faithful Gentiles, these comprise the body and bride of Christ. Being transformed into the glory of their Lord, they will rule and govern with him in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. They are the priestly rulers and leaders well suited to judge angels and lead dispersed Israel and the world into obedience to Christ.

For those who stumbled in Israel, they will just be entering their covenant in Christ; the Lord is their Righteousness. During his 1000-year reign they will learn to trust in the Lord as they fulfill their role as a model nation and an example of God’s faithfulness. During their time under Christ’s rule and King David’s leadership, they will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, through faith, in much the same way that believers in Christ have since his work began. And the result of that faithfulness leads to the same conclusion for them at the end of the age – eternal life.

Together, these faithful shepherds, both divine and human, will rule with Christ in his earthly kingdom and lead the nations into obedience to God.

There is much more to learn about each of these topics, and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.



To discover more about the plans Christ has for his body of believers, read my recent book . . .

The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View

Presuppositions

At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.

  1. The election of God is not limited to Gentiles in this age only. It started with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) and continues today. (Psalm 132:13-18; Galatians 3)
  2. The work of Jesus Christ and the will of God unites the faithful of the first covenant with the faithful of the new covenant (Ephesians 2; 3; Romans 5; 8; 9; 10; 11)
  3. Faith, which is a gift of God, is the basis of the hope of salvation for all those committed to the Lord. (Romans 11; 1 Peter 1; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Jude 3)
  4. The grace of God is greater-than the sin of humanity (Romans 5)
  5. Christ’s work results in a new creation (Fourth Gospel 3:1-21; Romans 8:28-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 6:14-18)
  6. The divinity and supremacy of the Son of God – the creator and finisher of all things. He alone is given authority to judge in righteousness according to the will of God (Fourth Gospel 1:1-5; Psalm 96:10-13; Isaiah 11:1-5; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:5-11; Revelation 5; 19:11-16)

Footnotes:

1) The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, Michael S. Hesier, Lexham Press – 2015
2) Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: God would mete out to them the same measure as they had done to him. Though chosen by the one God to be his own, they had preferred idols, which were no gods. So therefore would he prefer to his people that which was no people. As they angered him with their vanities, so would he provoke them by adopting in their stead those whom they counted as nothing. The terms “not a people” and “a foolish nation” mean such a people as not being God’s, would not be accounted a people at all, and such a nation is destitute of that which alone can make a really “wise and understanding people”, namely the knowledge of the revealed word and will of God.

Published by GMajella

Husband, father, and author on theological topics, with a focus on the underlying presuppositions which either cloud or enhance our view of reality. My focus is to challenge and guide fellow Christians into a deeper knowledge of God; his work, his will, and his overall purpose. My primary methods will be through books, blogs, and virtual or personal events.

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