Before the cross of Christ, mankind was divided into two groups: Jews and Gentiles. Both the Old and New Testaments make very clear what caused this distinction: the everlasting covenants that God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with their descendants through Moses. These covenants were for Israel alone and separated her from all other nations on the face of the earth (Leviticus:20:24-26; Psalm:147:2, 19-20), thereby making God’s “chosen people” absolutely unique.
This important distinction between Jews and Gentiles is maintained consistently throughout the Bible: “Ye [Gentiles] were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God...” (Ephesians:2:12).
After the Cross, a new entity was born: the church that Christ promised He would build (Matthew:16:18). As a result, there are now three divisions of mankind: Jews, Gentiles, and the church. Paul tells us that we are to “give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (I Corinthians 10:32). It is essential to understand that these three distinct groups exist side by side in today’s world and will continue to do so until the end of the Millennium. We must keep a clear distinction between them and recognize that God deals with each group differently. This is fundamental when it comes to interpreting prophecy.
Scripture makes it clear that the church did not replace Israel but came into existence as a new and third entity consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, and distinct from each. As surely as Gentiles continue to exist outside the church, so also does Israel, with all of God’s promises and plans for her remaining in full force. In fact, most “last days” prophecies are concerned with Israel, for she will continue here upon earth to face the Antichrist and the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah:30:7) after the church has been raptured to heaven. As for the church, God’s plans for her are unique, and different from His plans for either Israel or the Gentile nations.
In summary, prophecy becomes clouded in confusion if we fail to remember that the timing, manner, and purpose of the Lord’s coming are different for “Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God.” The use of vague or ambiguous terms such as “Jesus is coming again” or “the return of Christ” or “Christ is coming” can cause misunderstanding. Coming for whom? Returning for whom? Returning to do what? For the church or for Israel and the nations? As the Bridegroom to take his bride to His Father’s house, or as the Lion of the tribe of Judah to destroy those who have destroyed Israel? It makes a great difference.
Consider, for example, Matthew:24:29, 30: “Immediately after the tribulation...shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven...and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” That scripture is commonly presented as absolute proof for a post-tribulation rapture. That would be the case, however, only if it refers to Christ’s coming to take the church to heaven. On the other hand, if it describes Christ’s second coming to rescue Israel, which indeed it does, then this scripture is not teaching a post-tribulation rapture at all.