Today within the Christian Church there is much confusion and discussion on the state of Israel and relationship of the Jews and the Church. Confusion has arisen from those who hold to what is presently known as Replacement Theology RT (supersessionism). Matt Slick of CARM Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry defines RT as,
“The teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God.
Therefore, many of the promises that God made to Israel must be spiritualized. For example, when it speaks of Israel being restored to the land, this really means that the Christian church will be blessed. Also, covenants made with Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church so, for example,
The Jewish people are no longer God’s chosen people. Instead, the Christian church now makes up God’s chosen people.
In the New Testament after Pentecost, the term “Israel” refers to the church.”
The Abrahamic and the land covenant now see fulfillment in the church and not in the nation of Israel.
These views have been widely held by most of the old mainline liberal denominations such as the Methodist, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and the Catholic Church. It has led to much confusion about how God views His Chosen People, how the church treats those who still embrace the Jewish faith, evangelism of the Jews and the unconditional covenants God made with them. It has given rise to anti-semitism, forced conversions, torture and death, and has made relations between those of the Jewish and Christian faiths hostile in many instances over the last 1600 years.
The history of this theological heresy is seen in the book Our Hands are Stained with Blood, The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People by Michael L. Brown. In this book Brown recounts starting in the 4th century, how the church mistreated the Jewish comunities which they encountered. Rather than reaching out to them with the good news and love of Christ as modeled by the early church and apostles, the Jews were viewed far differently then other non believers. Raul Hillberg, a former scholar of the Holocaust writes, “Since the 4th century after Christ there have been three anti-Jewish policies: (forced) conversion, expulsion, annihilation. The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect: you have no right to live amongst us as Jew.” This view found early acceptance amongst some of the church fathers in the 4th century. St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, who died in 407 was honored as a saint by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican churches, while holding contempt towards most Jews. Considered to be one of the early great “Church Fathers”, he had little compassion for the Jews of his day. According to John, “The synagogue is worse than a brothel…it is a den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beast…the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults…a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ…the refuge of devils…” As for the Jews themselves, “I would say the same things about their souls. As for me I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason.” (pg.11 Brown) Saint Ambrose, a Bishop Of Milan and contemporary of St. John Chrysostom said, “The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. They worship the Devil. Their religion is a sickness. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ, and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jew must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is essential that all Christians hate them.” He was the spiritual father of Augustine who later held similar views of the Jews as seen in the book The City of God.
During the Middle Ages the Jews continued to be given the option of “baptism or expulsion. baptism or torture, baptism or death” according to Brown. They were forbidden good jobs, laws were passed restricting what they could do, their children were kidnapped and baptized, they were beaten for being Christ killers, humiliated publicly, tortured and the slogan was born”kill a Jew and save your soul.” Some Christians came to there aid and a few leaders clearly felt compassion for the plight of the Jews but the overall feeling coming from the Church was one of condemnation. God’s chosen people were now relegated to the level of social outcast as long as they held to their Jewish roots and tradition. The Jewish influence and culture seen in first and second century as the church began to spread, was now purged of its influence. It was said that God was done with the Jews and the church was now God’s chosen people. The Jews would forever be wanders because the promises were no longer in play and their land was no longer theirs as seen by their scattering around the world. All those prophecies of the physical return of the Jews to their land were now spiritualized and applied to the church. But were they?
The church, which for the last 1600 years spiritualized the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jews and the nation Israel, now saw the literal fulfillment of ancient prophecies that culminated in the regathering of the Jews, the state of Israel being re-established and the Jews once again re-occupy the city of Jerusalem. On May 14th, 1948 the state of Israel was re-established. The fulfillment of Isa. 66:7-8, Eze. 37:21-22 was now literally fulfilled and the idea that God was done with His people could now be laid to rest. God was not done with the nation Israel. He had regathered the Jews in unbelief from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:11-12), re-occupied the city of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967 (Zechariah 8:4-8) and Israel once again became a land of agricultural abundance (Ezekiel 36:34-35). The unconditional covenants that God made with His people, the Abrahamic and the Land Covenant, were now seeing their literal fulfillment. Though the nation Israel had rejected their Messiah and had suffered for the last 2000 years, God would honor His unconditional covenant and breathe new life into people. ”Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, . . . I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.” Jeremiah 7:3, 7
What does scripture and the Apostle Paul say to this issue of the church and nation Israel? Romans 9-11 holds the key so let us see what Paul had to say. Did God reject His people for rejecting Him?
Romans 11:1-5 “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never…God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew…in the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” God has always kept a believing remnant of Jews who believe in Him according to Paul.
What was the outcome of Israel’s rejection?
Romans 11:11 “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression (speaking of Israel) salvation has come to the Gentiles.” We were the beneficariares of Israel’s rejection. vs.15 “For if by their rejection the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Paul reminds us that the rejection of Jesus opened the door to the world being offered reconciliation through Christ. As the world and the Gentiles came to know the Messiah of the Jews, the Jews would see the blessings of God bestowed on them and this would, vs.11 ”make them jealous”. So the church was called to be a witness to the Jews not to persecute them. The church was called to follow Paul’s example as seen in Romans 9:2-3 “that I have great sorrow and ceasing grief in my heart. For i could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ, for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” We were to grieve for Israel and to witness to the Jews the same love Paul had who was willing to trade away his salvation for the sake of his people. It is us who are grafted into the believing house of Israel.
What is the mystery that Paul speaks of in Romans?
Romans 11:25 “For I do not want you brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and thus all Israel will be saved…” There is coming a time when God will take away the partial harding that now resides on Israel and their eyes will be open in a greater way. vs.28 “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake but from the stand point of God’s choice that are beloved for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” God is honoring all the promises and covenants He has made to Israel. The church is not spiritual Israel. We need to pray for Israel and the Jews because God is bringing flesh back to its dry bones and life back into His land and His holy city Jerusalem. Paul says that when they accept their Messiah there will come ”life from the dead”. Romans 11:15
Will God restore the kingdom to Israel?
In Acts 1:6-7 the question is posed “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel? He said them, “It is not for you to know the time or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority…” Jesus could’ve have answered that the kingdom would never return to Israel and had passed to the church but He didn’t. He just informed them it was no happening now and it wasn’t for them to know when.They were called to be witnesses to the utter most parts of the world as seen in verse 8.
Michael Brown concludes in his book that the church must “cry and weep, so that Israel will repent tomorrow and then Jesus will return and and suffering will cease.” There is coming a time when the fulness of the Gentiles will come and Israel’s eyes will be opened. Our call is to take the good news not only to the world but to the Jews also. Paul in Romans 10:12-13 “for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all abounding in riches for all who call upon Him, for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Zech. 14:4-9 tells of the time when Jesus will stand on the mount of Olives east of Jerusalem the glory of the Lord will shine forever…and Israel will receive their King.