Israel and the Church

A friend sent me the following graphic (not sure of the source or if you can read it):

Israel and the Church

The intent of the graphic is to strengthen the position of continuity between the testaments.  I think that some seek to unify the Word of God, while others have less than altruistic motives for posting a graphic like this.  However, I not only see the difference between Israel and the Church, I see as well the difference between Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology.  And this chart represents a major difference.  Here is a good primer for those who do not understand or know the differences:  Showers, Renald E. There Really Is a Difference!: a Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology. Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990. Print.

Covenant Theology essentially blurs the distinction between Israel and the Church.  Frankly, I’m not sure it is accurate to say that the CT equates the Church with Israel.  Maybe some do.  I believe the Bible teaches that they are essentially different entities.  Actually, I maintain that Israel, the Church, and the coming Millennial Kingdom are all separate entities.  Chapter 15 of Showers’ book lists seven lines of evidence which show that Israel and the Church are in fact different.

  1. Israel was a nation in the technical sense of that term, but the Church is not a nation in the technical sense of the term.  If the Church is a nation in the same way that Israel was and is currently a nation, what is the national language of the Church?  Who decides?  Actually, the Church consists of many different races and tongues and nations.  She is not bound by geography.  For instance, where is the capital city of the Church if it is a nation?  Who is the earthly political leader?  God established and regulated Israel under the Mosaic Law.  There is no earthly, political government for the Church.  Does the Church have a national army?
  2. Israel as a nation was the people of God through the Mosaic Covenant, but the nation rejected Jesus Christ.  The Church received and is receiving Christ until He receives her as His spotless Bride.
  3. Israel persecuted the Church.
  4. If a Gentile remained a Gentile, he was excluded from the nation of Israel.  He had to become an Israelite through the rite of circumcision and be placed under the Mosaic Law.  Gentiles today are full and equal memebers of the Church.  The Gentile doens’t have to become a part of the nation of Israel to be a member of the Church.
  5. Not all Israelites were beleivers in the OT.  So the nation of Israel consisted of unbelievers and believers alike.  The true Church consists only of regenerate believers.
  6. The Scriptures never refer to saved Jews of the OT nation of Israel as the Church of God.  But the Scriptures do call saved Jews and Gentiles of the NT the Church of God.  1 Corinthians 10.32 strengthens this distinction:  “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God.”  The fact that the NT applies the phrase “Church of God” to saved NT Jews does not mean that it applied to OT Jews.  Thus there is a very clear distinction between the saved Jews of the NT Church and the saved Jews of OT nation of Israel.  But saved is saved.  It matters not:  OT saint and NT saint alike enjoy the presence of God in Heaven.
  7. Romans 11 teaches that OT Israel was in the place of God’s blessing.  Since OT Israel rejected Jesus Christ through unbelief, God temporarily removed Israel from the place of His blessing.  The Church is now the place of God’s blessing;  Israel is not.  However, God will restore Israel to the place of His blessing when all of Israel receives Christ at His Glorious Appearing at the end of the Great Tribulation.

Israel is out of the place of God’s blessing; the Church is in the place of God’s blessing.  Therefore, Israel and the Church are not the same.  But God has not cast Israel away (Romans 11.1-2).  All Israel will be saved (Romans 11.26).  Israel and the Church may have been founded by God for different reasons and purposes, but God will not abandon either.  He will keep His promises to both.

So, I do see differences.  Frankly, I do not understand how anyone cannot see that Israel is not the Church and the Church is not Israel.  The Lord Jesus will sit upon the earthly throne in Jerusalem to fulfill the covenant made with David (see 2 Samuel 7.12-16).

It must be remembered that the Church is not present in Old Testament teaching.  The Church began at Pentecost and is comprised only of those who are trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  The Church’s “citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3.20).  The Church will reign with Jesus Christ in His Millennial Kingdom.  David Olander in his book, The Greatness of the Rapture:  The Pre-Day of the Lord Rapture wrote (emphasis mine):

…[T]he church is biblically based on covenants with Israel. But these covenants cannot be fulfilled by the church in any manner, for the eternal biblical covenants are not made with the church, Gentiles, or any Gentile nation.  Only the Jews, national Israel, have this eternal distinction. In the church age, Gentiles are brought near because of the Jew-Gentile relationship in union with Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:11–13).

1. The church’s program on earth will end with the rapture. The rapture is exclusively part of the program for the church and the church only. While there are areas of comparison between Israel and the church, God has a separate program for the church, and a separate program for Israel. The church, which began the day of Pentecost, will end at the rapture. Scripture is completely clear with this whole matter.

2. Israel’s program on the earth will end at the end of the millennial kingdom. Jesus Christ must rule as David’s Son, the King of Israel, and all things will be subjected unto Him. However, not all things are subjected to the Son of Man during the church age, but they will be in the Messianic kingdom (Heb. 2:8–9). At the end of the kingdom age, Jesus Christ as the King of Israel will then turn the kingdom back to the Father when He has subdued His last enemy (1 Cor. 15:24–25).

There will never be agreement between Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology.  There are underlying presuppositions that drive both.  However, we must be careful to treat one another respectfully and honorably.  The author of this graphic might want to consider that there are reasonable men who do see a difference.

Resolve to Adore Christ This Year

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.  If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.  -Song of Solomon 8.6-7

Many believe that the LORD is not mentioned by name in the Song of Solomon.  But if you read the verses above in a NKJV, you will find a marginal notation.  Mine explains that the phrase, “A most vehement flame” in v. 6 is literally A flame of Yah, or a poetic form of YHWH, the LORD.  

The primary application of the Song of Solomon is physical intimacy in marriage.  However, many of the older commentators applied the book to the church’s relationship with Christ.  Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on the Song of Solomon is replete with these parallels.

It is true that we are reading the church back into the Song of Solomon because it was written some 900 years before the church was established.  But I believe there is warrant for us to do so when we consider Ephesians 5.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

-Ephesians 5.26-27

So I am applying these verses in a secondary way as we consider the new year.  Not as a wife to a husband but as a church to Christ.  I would ask that you look to your Savior at the beginning of 2013 and make one resolution and one affirmation.

Resolve to be the object of Christ’s affections and continual care (8.6).  Affirm that you cannot bear the thought of having less than a supreme unalterable love for Christ (8.6-7).

Our New Year’s Resolution

“Set me as a seal upon Your heart, as a seal upon Your arm.”  This is a two-fold seal.  A medallion over the heart is akin to a locket with the picture of someone you love.  It is worn on a necklace close to your heart.  The seal on the arm is visible.  It is something that tells the world that I belong to Him.  The wedding band is useful for this purpose in our culture.

We cry out to our Lord that we are resolved to be close to His heart and we desire that He keep us visibly before Him and the Heavenly Host.  What better way than to make manifest the scars from His death on the cross.  They will be visible for all to see when He returns in the revelation of His glory.  All the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him (Rev 1.7).

Is Christ close to your heart?  Is He the object of your adoration?  His love is as strong as death for you.  Seems odd to say this, but when we pause to think about how death is irreversible, it makes sense.  We can do nothing to call a love one back from the grave.  And the pain and sorrow that causes is terrible.  But the love Christ has for His bride, the Church, is irreversible as well.  Nothing can take us from Him.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.

-John 10.27-30

Our prayer should include adoration such as calling to God to set us as a seal upon heart and arm.  We should express our delight in His unchanging and unwavering love for us.  While a wife yearns for the love and devotion of her husband, it is infinitely more important that we yearn for the love and devotion of our Savior – even though we have it.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” (Isaiah 49:16)  Open your mouth wide this year, and God will fill it.  Ask what you will, and it shall be done for you.  Resolve to be the object of Christ’s affections and continual care!

Our New Year’s Affirmation

The text goes on to tell us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave for us as the bride of Christ.  There is no escape.  It is like a devouring fire.  Our God is a consuming fire!  We remain unsatisfied with where we are and who we are.  We yearn for the day when we are with Him.  It is a flame which cannot be quenched or satisfied until we see Him!

Many waters cannot quench our love for Him.  The floods cannot put out the flame He has ignited in our hearts.  If an exchange were made for wealth, such love would be despised.  But our God’s love is unchanging!

Let me challenge you to set your hearts and your adoration upon Christ this year.  Count all things loss for the knowledge of Him.  Don’t allow the floods of persecution, trial, sickness, or sorrow drown it.  Love the LORD Jesus Christ!

All your security and happiness depend upon the unchanging love that God has for you.  God is love!