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“Some Thoughts About the Nation of Israel and the Church”
by Mike Oppenheimer   
November 19th, 2015

At a time when a clear and biblically sound understanding of  Bible prophecy is most important, we find the church, paradoxically, having less knowledge of it, especially as it relates directly to Israel.  Most evangelical Christians throughout history have supported the Jews and the modern state of Israel, but things are changing. The church, from its infancy, believed God had a future plan for Israel based on Scripture (Acts 3:19). This plan included the national  restoration of Israel to the same land from which they were eventually  dispersed. As time went on and the church drifted further and further away from her Jewish beginnings, many began to erroneously believe the church had replaced Israel. But in this day and age when we see biblical prophecy being fulfilled on such an unprecedented and unparalleled scale—with God’s continual protection and restoration of the Jews to their land, there should not be those who walk in disbelief with regard to God’s promises. But there are!

A growing number within the church are holding to the position that Israel as a people and a nation has no further place with God and that Israel is eternally cast off for their rejection of the Messiah. They believe national Israel no longer has a future in any part of God’s plan. They also believe all the promises given to Israel have not only been revoked but transferred to the church and that the church is now the “true Israel.” Some even go so far as to make disparaging and untruthful remarks, which suggest the Jewish people are now no longer a “chosen people of God” and are cursed because of their unbelief or that they have inherited all the curses of the law found in Deuteronomy 28–33.

They believe all the blessings belonging to Israel have now been transferred to the church, but they neglect to include the curses found in Deuteronomy 28. If one is going to lay claim to the blessings of Deuteronomy 28, then one must lay claim to the curses as well. Nor can we live under the Old Covenant and the New Covenant at the same time. But, these teachers would strip the Jews of the inheritance God pledged to them (and never revoked) and apply all these blessings to themselves. But God sees through the arrogance, and jealousy, that is being rekindled in these last days. Ironically, those who have taken such a stance have proclaimed curses on themselves, for God said He would curse those who curse Israel. Deuteronomy 28 is a conditional covenant of Moses that God extended to the nation of Israel, but we would do well to hold fast to the New Covenant of grace that has now been extended to both Jew and Gentile.

Adherents of this Replacement Theology teaching claim the church was already in place in the Old Testament and was an assembly of believers. Therefore, the church, in their mind, becomes the continuation of Israel. Since Pentecost of Acts 2, the term “Israel” now refers to the church, they say. However, if one takes a closer look at how the words in the Book of Acts are used, one will see this is not so. If this is true, then why are there so many distinctions made between Israel and the church throughout the Book of Acts and why are so many distinguishing statements also made throughout Paul’s epistles? Such inconsistency can only originate from a man-made doctrine built on a false presupposition at best.

The very first occurrence of the Greek word ekklesia in the New Testament is found in Matthew 16:18. The word “church” (ekklesia, or assembly) is often thought to mean Israel by replacement theologians as a generic meaning for an assembly of worshipers. Thus, they assume the word church is a Greek word for Israel. They believe this is what Jesus the Messiah meant in Matthew 16:18 for the word church (it is only used again in the New Testament Gospels in Matthew 18:17). 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,” referring to those who confess Jesus is the Son of the Living God—something that was not yet 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 to 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, etc. As I stated earlier, if one were to keep substituting the word Israel for church throughout the New Testament, they would soon begin to see the problems it would create.

In Acts 8:3, Saul persecuted the “church” from house to house. He certainly was not persecuting Israel.

Acts 2:47: “And the Lord added to the church [Israel?] daily such as should be saved.”

Acts 8:1: “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church [Israel?] which was at Jerusalem.”

Acts 11:26: “And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church [Israel?], and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

And in Acts 15:4: “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church [Israel?], and of the apostles and elders, and they declared 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 every sense, go against the church being Israel.

In the same way, if one uses the word “church”or “the church” interchangeably for Israel, even more problems occur.

Matthew 2:20 says, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel [church].”

Matthew 8:10: “[T]o them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel [the church].”

Matthew 10:6: “But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel [the church].”

Matthew 15:24: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel [the church].”

Matthew 19:28: “[Y]e which have followed me . . . ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel [the church].”

Luke 24:21: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel [the church].”

Would it not be prudent then to let the word “Israel” mean what God would have it mean in its consistent, designated, biblical
context, and the term “the church” be what God would have it mean in its longstanding, God-given context as well?

[T]hey asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6. 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, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious . . . as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4–5).

You “are built up a spiritual house”—oikodomeisthe. These have become a congregation of faith among those who disbelieve.

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