Knowing that Israel would reject and crucify Him, Christ said He would build a new entity, the church. This would occur in the interim prior to Israel’s restoration while “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentile, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke:21:24). The word “church” or “churches” (ekklesia in Greek, meaning “called out”), occurs about 114 times in the New Testament. No Hebrew word in the Old Testament is translated “church” in the King James Version. Pertaining to Israel, the major comparable words in Hebrew are edah, mowed
Here we have an obvious claim by Christ that He is God. Israel had been chosen by God. Who, then, but God Himself, could establish another congregation of believers in addition to and distinct from Israel? Christ’s statement regarding the church is similar to what He said to the Jews “who believed on him,” and it has the same awesome implications: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John:8:31-31).
The Jews must have been stunned by that declaration. How could this one dare to use such terms as “my word” and “my disciples” and claim to set His followers free? Was it not God’s Word they were to follow, and were they not Moses’ disciples? Was He claiming to be greater than Moses—even equal to God? Whatever it meant to be His disciple, He was obviously starting something new.
Nevertheless, no one imagined that this miracle worker intended to dispense with Israel and replace her with some other entity. Nor did Christ ever imply, much less say, that He would do so. That misunderstanding arose much later and still persists. The belief that the church replaces Israel remains today among Roman Catholics, among those of the Reformed theology such as Presbyterians and Lutherans, and among many charismatics as well.