This may seem to be the most basic of questions, but Christianity has been corrupted by a false doctrine that has held sway since Augustine – that of The Church replaces Israel.
It seems logical, and if you read the Bible from that perspective, it seems to hold together not too badly. If you begin to spiritualize certain passages, it most certainly seems to make more sense. And if you spiritualize all references to Israel being the Church, even into the land being divided by the sons of Jacob, it makes even more sense.
But stop there.
What does Spiritualize mean? I used to hear this when I was a Messianic a lot (really, that word should be Messy Antics, the Jewish nickname for the cultish group of Gentile Christians wearing yarmulke and tallis). I never stopped to analyze that word.
1. To refine the intellect; to purify from the feculences of the world; as, to spiritualize the soul.
2. In chemistry, to extract spirit from natural bodies.
3. To convert to a spiritual meaning.
Obviously, those people who believe The Church replaces Israel (and Messianics), the definition intended is not #1 or #2. If I give you a sermon illustration, and relate it to a text it has nothing to do with… that is spiritualizing.
So, how do you spiritualize something already spiritual?
Oh, you mean allegorize.
1. To form an allegory; to turn into allegory; as, to allegorize the history of a people.
2. To understand in an allegorical sense; as, when a passage in a writer may be understood literally or figuratively, he who gives it a figurative sense is said to allegorize it.
An allegory is very simply, taking something that means what it says and giving it a different meaning. For example, if you take the text “The stone rolled away” and proceed to give the various stones each a different meaning, and “What is the stone in your life?”
It’s effective, it pleases people – and it is a gross distortion of what the Biblical text is talking about.
So if we ALLEGORIZE The Church as Israel… then this doctrine, known as “Replacement Theology” makes perfect sense. But then again, you can allegorize any verse into any meaning. No kidding. I can take “Thou shalt not steal” and allegorize it into telling you that you should!
I mention this in connection with preaching to let the preacher know – if you decide to preach expositorally, you will sooner or later run into a passage you’re just going to throw up your hands and say, “I don’t know.” And the temptation to allegorize it will be very strong. Especially when you go to your Bible handbooks and commetaries and they always skip right over that verse.
Either pick the very next passage to preach, or present the verse with all its possible meanings to the congregation. I’ve done that, and as I was preaching it, the meaning suddenly was plain to me. It’s the semi -Inductive sermon method “who, what when, why where”.
Dealing with The Church equals Israel, let’s look at WHAT “The Church” and WHO Israel is.
That’s a really big hint right there. Israel is a “Who” and “The Church” is a “what”. Church is ἐκκλησίᾳ, from the lemma καλεω, to call. τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν “thou shalt call his name JESUS” shows the word in action. To call, to identify, to summon, so to speak. Kaleo is one of those words often learned in the first month of Greek, for an obvious reason. It’s used a lot.
Ek is the prefix “Out of”. Ekklesia therefore is to be called out of. That’s a what, not a who.
Ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱόν μου. Out of Egypt have I called my Son. It is almost the word Ekklesia there. It is Ekalesa.
Here’s how you understand it. “The Church” is a called out assembly. And originally, it applied to Jews. Who were called out of Israel.
Logic and Greek should prevail here. How can that which is called out of that something else be that something else at the same time?
“Well, we replace Israel.”
So then, who gets Raptured? “The Church”? Yes. The word Church and ChurchES (another big hint there) can be found 19 times in Revelation 1-3. It’s not seen again until the end of Revelation.
Another big hint.
The church goes somewhere, and suddenly the Bible starts talking about Israel. Saints are mentioned, but they are out of every tribe. And tribes such as Assher and Naphtali are mentioned.
If “THe Church” replaces Israel, why does the Bible start talking about Israel in Revelation chapter seven when up until then it has used the word Church many times? Church, churches…
If the Bible uses the word “churches” to refer to more than one church, we should too. “But what about the Universal church?”
THere isn’t one. The words “Called out assembly” are synonymous with Kehillat in Hebrew. Kehillat has always been translated assembly. an Ekklesia is an assembly.
So it’s a universal assembly!”
No. The Koine Greek does not use the word that way. If you SEE (hint) a group, and many of them assemble to start shouting about something (like Diana of the Ephesians) and want to do something (like say, stone Paul) – that’s an Ekklesia. “I will build my called out assembly.” It has to be a local, visible assembly – in one location. Think of it being related to our use of the word “Crowd”. “The Universal Crowd. Makes no sense.
Israel, on the other hand, is a people group, a family, a nation. I remember applying for a job, and they had “White, black, hispanic” checkboxes. I showed it to the employer and asked what do I check because I’m Jewish. He said, “THat’s a religion, not an ethnicity.”
Not from my point of view.
Here’s the big ugly monkey wrench that spoils the whole replacement theology issue – if the Church is always a local, visible assembly, and if we use the word churchES for multiple churches, then the reference church, singular, cannot mean Israel.
And the other monkey wrench in the machine is this…
How does it mess things up when people like myself, Michael brown and Ray Comfort convert to Christianity? Do we replace ourselves, being Jewish?
Why would the Bible use the word Church and churches many times in Revelation 1-3, begin using Israel for the rest of Revelation, and then switch back to using the word Church again, if they were the same thing?
Answers to all of it… There is no Universal Church (it’s a mis-applying of the wrong word), the church is not Israel. Israel is the Jewish people, and those grafted INTO it. Members of Israel may join the churches. THe Gentile people become grafted into the branch that is Israel. The churches do not replace anything. If I convert to Christianity, I do not suddenly become a Gentile that replaces myself. I remain a Jew. A fulfilled, completed Jew.
this was the reasoning done by John Darby as he read through the Bible over 140 years ago. It’s been the reasoning of many Christians over the centuries.
It has been branded “dispensationalism”. I call it Doctrine and Bible.
If the Bible makes a distinction between Jew and Gentile, so should we. If the Bible uses the word “Church” as a what and “Israel” as a who, so should we.
If this sounds like fuel for a good sermon, it is. Dispensationalism makes distinctions that the other viewpoints such as Calvinistic Covenant Theology completely fudges. This is where John MacArthur fights a difficult battle, trying to wean Calvinists from Covenant Theology, where historically they have been wedded. I think if MacArthur would just dump the Calvinism, he’d find suddenly Scripture open up to him in a whole new way. He’s having to battle 5point calvinism with dispensationalism, and making little headway.
Let’s summarize our points.
- The church is always Biblcially a local, visible entity – a congregation.
- Israel is the Jewish people
- The church is a what, Israel is a who.
- The churches are raptured, Israel remains
- the Gentiles are grafted into Israel through faith
- Jews like myself and Ray Comfort may find Jesus Christ and join churches, without replacing ourselves.
See, all you need is a sermon illustration and an altar call.