What’s the Difference between Israel and the Church?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Dave, our subject for today is “Israel and the Church,” and we know from the Bible that Jesus was called the King of Israel in John:1:49, and that was a title that He didn’t repudiate. He’s also referred to as “head of the Church” in Ephesians:5:23. So, how are Christians to view Israel and the Church? Is there a distinction, and if so, how important is it for us to understand what the Bible declares about both entities?
Dave: Well, there certainly is a distinction in the Bible, and any distinction the Bible makes has to be important. The Bible is talking about important things, revealing God’s purposes and plans for us. For example, Israel was given a land. They’re God’s chosen people. The Germans were never given a land; the Americans, whoever they are—they’re a big mixture—were never given America, although some professing Christians seem to think so and they think that Christians have to take it back.
The Church is composed of both Jews and Gentiles. It’s something new. The Church did not exist in the Old Testament. Christ said, “On this rock I will build my church,” Matthew 16. So, obviously, there was a beginning. The Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, Ephesians 2.
So, there is no doubt that there is a difference. God still has plans for Israel. In Ephesians 2, it tells us that Christ, when He died on the cross, He broke down the middle wall, or partition, between Jews and Gentiles. There was a distinction, and there still is today, except in the church there is no distinction anymore. There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, and so forth, but we’re one in Christ. So He made of two one new man—Jew and Gentile became one new man.
Now, when the Jews became believers in Christ and part of the Church, that didn’t end Israel. It didn’t end the other Jews, nor did they cease to be Jews themselves, but they’re one in Christ, now, with Gentiles. When the Gentiles become Christians that does not end the Gentile nations. So, you can’t say that because the Church was founded, the nation of Israel ceased to exist. So in 1 Corinthians:10:32, Paul says, “Giving none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” So obviously, today, after the Church was formed, there still exist the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God. And those in the Church of God are neither Jew nor Gentile.
Tom: Dave, there’s a popular idea out there that I think is running rampant through the church today. Some would say, “Look, the purpose of Israel had to do with the birth of the Messiah. These were the people God chose in order to bring forth the Messiah, the Christ.” And they would say that took place, but then these Jews rejected Christ—therefore, that’s it for them. Now, all that the Bible speaks about with regard to Israel is really the Church.
Dave: You would really have to twist scripture to come to that, because there is continuity in the Old Testament. God gave His people a land; He brought them into the land. When He brought them into the land, He warned them that if they disobeyed Him He would cast them out. He would scatter them to every nation on the face of this earth. They would be hated and persecuted like no other people (anti-Semitism). He would preserve them, and in the last days He would bring them back into their land. And He would make Jerusalem “a cup of trembling, a burdensome stone to the nations of this world.” They would . . . eventually these people would be attacked by Antichrist at Armageddon, and Jesus Christ himself, Zechariah:12:10, would return to this earth bodily, physically, bringing the saints from heaven with Him—that’s the Church—to rescue Israel in the midst of Armageddon and to establish His kingdom on this earth, ruling on the throne of His father, David. Okay?
Now, the Church was never given a land, they were never scattered from this land, they were never brought back into a land. So, unless you’re going to spiritualize that away—and there is no basis for spiritualizing it, it was not spiritual in the Old Testament—you can’t suddenly cut it off and spiritualize it in the New Testament.
No, these are a people, a continuing existence. In fact, the existence of the Jews today and of their presence in Israel, the rebirth of the nation Israel—this constitutes one of the greatest proofs that God exists, that the Bible is His Word. And, if you try to spiritualize this and turn it into the Church, you’ve pulled the rug out from under some of the greatest prophecies. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies concerning the return of these people to their land, and that, in fact, they will be born again one day!
Now, again, Paul in Romans 10 begins this way—he says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. I bear the record that they have a zeal after God but not according to knowledge.” Now put the Church in there. Paul says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire, my prayer to God for the Church, is that they might be saved.” Wait a minute! You’ve got to be saved to get into the Church. So, the Church still exists today, and Israel still exists today, but they are two separate entities.
Now, Tom, as you know, being a former Catholic, this idea is really Catholicism revived among so-called Protestants. It was the Catholic Church that said, “We are the new Israel.” Even Vatican II says, “Israel is the people formerly chosen by God.” All down through history it was the popes who started anti-Semitism as far as so-called Christians are concerned. They were the first ones who put Jews in ghettos. They made the Jews wear an identifying badge, a yellow hat, whatever, depending upon the pope that was doing it. They slaughtered the Jews—the Crusaders, the first Crusade under Pope Urban II—as they moved across Europe they slaughtered Jews everywhere they could find them. People think that the Crusaders went to the so-called holy land to deliver it back to the Jews. No! They went there to take it for themselves, and the leader of the Crusades said he was going to revenge the death of Jesus, and he would slaughter every Jew! And, when they took Jerusalem, they chased the Jews into the synagogue and set it ablaze. Pope Urban II said, “Go back and take that land for yourselves!”
Okay? So, this is a Catholic idea. They took the names that God gave to Jerusalem . . . Jerusalem is mentioned 818 times in the Bible. It’s called the city of God. They took that name for Rome! It’s called the city of God; it’s called the Holy City. No, they took that name. The eternal city, no they took that name!
No, this is the City of David—forty times in the Bible it’s called that. So, they said, “No, we are the new Israel,” and therefore, because of this error, they thought that the church should build a worldwide empire and that the church should rule, physically rule, over the kings of the earth. And, we have a prophecy in Revelation:17:18, the last verse, where it says, “This is the city that rules over the kings of the earth. This is the woman that rides the beast, is a city that rules over the kings of the earth.” Jerusalem never ruled over the kings of the earth. Jerusalem will not until . . . in fact, it won’t be Jerusalem; it will be the Messiah on the throne of David who will rule over this earth! There won’t be any kings left at that time. But Rome has been ruling over the kings of the earth. We document that in A Woman Rides the Beast.
Tom: Right. Dave, what we’re talking about here is called Replacement Theology. That is, the church replaces Israel, and, as you said, it’s ridiculous when you just look at the Scriptures—particularly prophecies. And, as you mentioned, Catholicism played a big part in this, but Catholicism isn’t the only bird out there.
Dave: No, that’s right.
Tom: We find within many of the Reformation teachings—Lutherans, for example, we find a view of eschatology called amillennialism—most of those take that perspective and maybe even push it to post-millennialism. Now, without explaining those, the idea here is that many of these groups certainly believe that the church has replaced Israel.
Dave: They do. Of course, this was the teaching of Calvin. He got it from Augustine. Augustine’s City of God is one of his well-known works, and the idea that now we are to take over. So, you have this idea among many charismatics. We call them Kingdom Now, Kingdom Dominion. You would get that idea on TBN, for example. I remember Paul Crouch saying, “We’re going to take over the airways and if we have to do it by force we’ll do it!” They think that the church must take over. You had a huge—I’m not putting down all charismatics, but it happens to be very strong among them, as well as among the Calvinists who are anti-charismatics.
Tom: . . . As well as among the Catholics. We’re just laying out who is promoting Replacement Theology.
Dave: You had a huge conference in Phoenix, maybe seven or eight years ago. It was called Take It by Force. And they used the verse—they said that Joshua was told to go in and possess the land. And they said, “God is raising up a ‘Joshua generation.’” Some people call it Joel’s Army. You have people like Rick Joyner who are teaching this, and they said, “We’re going to go in, and we’re going to take over America because God told Joshua to take over the land of Israel.”
No. God never promised America to the Americans, whoever they may be. He never promised any land to anybody. He promised the land of Israel to the Israelis, to the people of Israel. Now, that God promised that land to them does not give us the right to take over America or for the Germans to take over Germany. In fact, that land is specified, it has boundaries, and it is all laid out there in the book of Genesis, the boundaries of this land.
So, the problem is that the Church wants to use promises that God gave to Israel and they want to apply them to themselves, to the land in which they live. For example, 2 Chronicles:7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and repent, and will turn to me, and will seek my face, and will pray . . . ; then will I hear from heaven. I will heal their land.” It’s the land of Israel! We have no promise that God will heal America. America is made up of godless people who hate the Lord or who just don’t have any time for the Lord. They’re in rebellion. We have no promise that God . . .
Tom: It’s not that there couldn’t be revival though, Dave. You’re not saying that, but you can’t make this a hard-and-fast thing, utilizing the scripture that you just quoted.
Dave: I’ve been accused of being negative, but the disciples asked Jesus, “Are there many that be saved?” He said, “No. Strive to enter at the strait gate. Strait is the gate, narrow is the way that leads to life; few be that find it.” So, one of the problems is [that] we try to make Christianity popular. We confuse Christianity with Americanism. I’ve fought in a war for America. I’m a loyal citizen of the United States of America. But my citizenship is in heaven, really—my true citizenship—and I have no illusions that we Christians can take over America. We’ve been trying to do that for a long time.
Tom: Or “delusions” would be more appropriate.
Dave: Yeah, “delusion” would more appropriate. But “We’re going to take over America, and we’re going to make Christianity so popular that everyone will want to be a Christian.”
Well, that’s contrary to the Word of God. So, if you make Christianity popular, it’s no longer Christianity. I’m sorry. Jesus Christ was not popular; the early church was not popular. They persecuted and killed them. They crucified Jesus. And Jesus said very clearly in John 15, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world [there is a distinction between the world]—because you are not of the world but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore, the world hateth you. The servant isn’t greater than his Lord. If they persecuted and hated me, what do you think they will do to you if you are true to me?”
So, the problem is that as soon as we try to make “Christianity so-called” popular, and we equate it with Americanism and now this is going to be the American thing, we have departed from Jesus Christ. It is no longer the Christianity of Jesus Christ, but it’s a new Christianity that we have repackaged and revised to make it popular.
You know, Tom, I often say when the young man comes running up to Jesus and he says, “Good Master, I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus doesn’t say, “Peter, sign him up quick. James, get him in the choir! John, makes a deacon out of him. We’ve got to make this thing popular! Get everybody in here that we can—we don’t want to lose them!”
No, He says, “Are you sure you want to follow Me? Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests—I don’t have anywhere to lay My head. We’re heading for a hill outside Jerusalem called Calvary. They’re going to nail Me to a cross! Now, if you want to be My follower, pick up your cross right now. That’s where we’re going.”
Now, Tom, you don’t get millions of people to follow you when you say that. Something has to happen—they have to really be born of the Spirit of God! They have to be convicted of their sins and repent before God and cry out to Him for mercy, recognizing that they are worthy of eternal judgment—that God’s judgment is upon them! And they cry out to Him, and they believe that Christ died for their sins upon the cross, was buried, rose again the third day, according to the scriptures—they’re saved. Then they are in the church, and the church is separate from the world.
One of the problems, Tom, today is you can’t tell Christians from the world around them. They have the same ambitions, they watch the same TV programs and laugh at the same off-color jokes. They have the same ambitions and live very much the same lifestyle. I mean, some of the polls that we have of Christian universities, Christian colleges, tell us that Christian young people have the same percentage committing fornication and so forth that you have in non-Christian circles. And some of the polls tells us that those who call themselves “born again”—I think it was the last poll, I saw—thirty-some percent don’t even believe in the resurrection; maybe forty percent don’t believe in absolute truths.
So, are these people Christians? Or have they just picked up some idea that they have thought was popular and that’s been popularized? Tom, even as I say these things, I know people out there are thinking, Well, what a negative guy he is! Who does he think he is? We’re not defining Christianity. If you call yourself a Christian, then we’d better go by what Jesus Christ said.
Tom: Right. Dave, our main thrust here has been the difference between Israel and the church.
Dave: That’s what you were trying to talk about, and I get off on all kinds of tangents.
Tom: [Laughing] No, no, you know, this is related to it, but, well, I’ll give you another side to that—we can talk about the church, saying, “Oh no, Israel no longer exists.” Now not everybody, but there are those—again we were talking about Replacement Theology—who would push that idea. On the other hand, we have those who are in the church who, similar to the Galatians, Judaizers—they’re trying to make themselves Jewish—more Jewish—although they are within the church. What’s the problem with that?
Dave: Well, of course, Paul had quite a bit to say, as you indicated, in the book of Galatians. Now, I am not opposed to Messianic Jews. I guess that’s the way they . . .
Tom: Explain that for our audience.
Dave: Well, they believe that Jesus is the Messiah, so that’s why they would call themselves . . . “we’re still Jews,” physically. In fact, Paul still considered himself to be a Jew. Romans 9, he talks about “those who are my brethren after the flesh.” And, in fact, he says, “They are Christ’s brethren after the flesh.” Jesus was a Jew, so you can’t change that.
But they think that, now, “If we can just be more Jewish, then we are more Christian.” And how do you become Jewish? I can’t change my birth, you know. I’m part English, Irish, part German and Norwegian—I am a mixture. Now, I can’t become a Jew physically, so, “well if you wear a yarmulke and you have some tassels, you know, and you adopt kind of Jewish ways. . . . ” Now, number one, it’s foolish for me to try to do that because I am not a Jew. Number two, then why would they do it? Well, they think if they can act sort of Jewish, that then they are becoming more Christian.
In fact, Paul said, “Wait a minute! You’re putting yourself back under the law. These customs were for the Jews.” For example, even keeping the Passover. Now, I know that it’s popular in some Christian circles—they have a Seder and so forth. I have a few problems with that, and, again, some of my friends won’t like what I say, but they’re trying to take Jewish tradition that got involved in the Passover and say, “Oh look, the gospel! We can preach the gospel from this!”
Well, why don’t you try to preach the gospel from other Jewish traditions? You see, the Bible doesn’t give that to us, okay? So, for me to keep a Seder, to keep the Passover, it has no meaning! My ancestors were not slaves in Egypt. My ancestors were not delivered under Moses from Egypt. For a Jew, it has great significance! It has spiritual significance and historic significance, and, of course, it points forward to Christ, who delivers us—and Egypt is like the world—[He] delivers us from the world.
But the problem then becomes . . . they start to look to Jewish customs and Jewish ways, which brings you back under the old covenant. I’ve been set free from this. Paul was set free from this. Paul said, well, unto the Galatians he said, “If you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.” We have a higher law, that is, the law of Christ. Christ, now, is living in me.
You know, the rabbis complained that Jesus broke the law— “Oh, he didn’t keep the Sabbath! He healed on the Sabbath,” and so forth. He came to fulfill the law, in that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices. Now we have new life in Christ—that’s why we don’t keep the seventh day. Nobody changed . . . well, Constantine changed it, called it Sunday, you know, as the holy day and so forth—but the Sabbath is still Saturday. We don’t keep the Sabbath because we’re not under the Old Covenant. Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week. The eighth day, a new day—we are part of a new creation in Christ Jesus! So, there’s a tendency to try to bring people back under the law and that’s not good.
Tom: Well, Dave, our penchant, our tendencies, are toward rituals, something that we do that’s efficacious to make us more spiritual and so on. You mentioned the Catholic Church. This is what I went through, whether it be the sacramentals or sacramentalism—this removes us from the person of Christ. This is not the spirituality that the Bible offers.
Dave: Yes, there’s a distinction between the church and Israel. Israel still exists, God still has a program for them, He still has promises, the Messiah will return to them, they will face Armageddon. That’s not the church, and we need to recognize the difference.