Sunday, December 10, 2017

Israel and The Church

There are two main views regarding the relationship between Israel and the Church. They are Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism. Replacement Theology is defined by Matt Slick posting on the CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) website as "the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God." In other words, Israel has lost its "chosen people" status and it no longer has any future place in God's redemptive plan. Dispensationalism is defined also by Matt Slick as "an approach to biblical interpretation which states that God uses different means of working with people (Israel and the Church) during different periods of history." In this perspective, God still has a plan for Israel, but Israel and the Church are two separate entities. However, neither of these approaches satisfies the Biblical record completely.

I would like to posit a very different view that I hope will one day pervade the Christian church.

Isaiah 2:1-4 (KJV) 
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This passage is describing earth at the end of the ages, as seen in a vision by the prophet Isaiah. The nations will be judged and there will no longer be any war. God's temple will be established on Mount Zion and many people will suggest going up to the mountain, to the temple of Israel, to be taught God's ways, so that they would walk in His paths. For surely, the Torah of the Lord goes forth from Jerusalem. Any attempt at suggesting this passage should be taken in an allegorical way defies the plain meaning of the text. There is no reason to believe that it means anything except what it flat out says. This passage and so many others in the Bible reflect the same understanding, that Israel will always be God's chosen people. The church has not replaced Israel.

Paul also confirms this in Romans.

Romans 11:1 (KJV)
1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

He also wrote:

Romans 9:6 (KJV)
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Paul was saying that Israel can really mean two separate entities. The first is that Israel exists as a nation or an ethnicity. However, Paul went on to say that not all Israel (the national or ethnic identity) is Israel (another Israel?).

Romans 11:17 (KJV)
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Paul spoke here about Gentiles being grafted into Israel. He can't be speaking about national or ethnic Israel because when we are born again, we don't become Jewish first. We stay as Gentiles. Yet, we are grafted into Israel. What Israel? This Israel consists of the believers. Consequently, the Dispensationalists keep Israel and the church as separate groups. Paul's definition of the Israel contradicts this. The believing remnant of Israel and the Gentiles that have been grafted in comprise Paul's second definition of Israel. Basically, if you are a believer in Yeshua, you are a part of Israel.

It is my hope that in time, we will understand that there is only one group of believers and they are called Israel. This is not to say that Israel as a nation or as an ethnicity doesn't have a place in God's plans, but the sharp divide between Israel and the church is equally misguided.   

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving and Sukkot

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!!!

As we gather with family and friends this year, let's be sure to remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is not for all the fabulous food, the football, the time off work, or Black Friday deals, but rather a time to think about all of God's blessings to us, especially His provision, and the love of family and friends. It is a time to thank Him!

This year I have heard and read a lot about how the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving was inspired by the feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles or Booths), so I explored this in a little more depth. While some researchers claimed a substantial relationship between the two holidays, others seemed to dismiss the idea. What is the truth?

First of all, Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, was instituted with President Lincoln's declaration in 1863. It wasn't until 1941 that Congress established that Thanksgiving was to be held every year on the fourth Thursday of November. So, the Thanksgiving that the Pilgrims celebrated was not meant to be the precursor of an annual holiday, although, the inspiration for the national holiday was indeed the Pilgrim's celebration.  Likely, the Pilgrims did not celebrate on a yearly basis since they rejected the Catholic idea of fixed holidays throughout the year. Celebration stemmed from events that warranted special treatment.

Yet, there is some correlation between the Pilgrims' perspectives of themselves and the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. When the Pilgrims left Holland, they left because of the liberal influence that Holland had on the congregation, especially the young. They wanted to flee from these influences and felt that starting off in a new land would be the ideal way to create a kind of "new world." They were going on an Exodus, heading for the Promised Land.

This view that the Pilgrims had of themselves did not mean that they followed the whole Torah. They observed the "moral" law but felt that the "ceremonial" laws were no longer applicable. Consequently, they did not observe any of the feasts of the Lord, like Sukkot. However, their view did lend itself to understanding that the Jewish observance of Sukkot was an expression of thanksgiving.

Leviticus 23:39-43 (KJV)
39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

The Pilgrims realized that the Israelites living in booths for seven days was a reminder of the hardships of the Exodus, but the accompanying joy of the feast represented the hope of the Promised Land.

Was the original Pilgrim Thanksgiving inspired by Sukkot? Although we may not have a definitive answer, there does appear to be enough evidence to think it a possibility.

Please see: