FIRST POSTED ON 15 JUNE 2019.
Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!
Over the next few blog posts, we will conclude Session 3 by looking at the history of Israel and what it means for the Church as God’s royal priesthood and holy nation today. By Church, I want to clarify that we are speaking here about the Church in its visible form - as an institution, denomination or local body of believers that we belong to - just as by Israel, we are referring to the visible Jewish nation. This is because God has chosen to work through these earthly communities (Ekklesia) to bring about His spiritual plans and purposes.
In 1 Cor 10:1-11, Paul pointed out how Israel served as an example for the Church. He used the Greek term tupos, which means, in the technical sense, a pattern in conformity to which something must be made; in an ethical sense, a warning; and in a doctrinal or Biblical sense, a person or thing prefiguring or foretelling a future person or thing as it relates to Jesus. In other words, what happened to Israel is not only instructive but PROPHETIC of what will come upon the Church even as Jesus’ return draws near. In fact, as we will see later, Israel’s history would virtually repeat itself in the growth and development of the Church.
That the Church should behave like Israel, as though they were both from the same tree, should come as no surprise. In Rom 11:11-32, Paul warned Gentile believers not to be proud, thinking that they were superior to the Jews. This was because they were in actual fact ingrafted into God’s Kingdom in place of the Jews, who were the natural branches as it were but who had been cut off for now due to their rejection of Jesus. As I had briefly mentioned in our last session, the entire nation of Israel would be removed from the face of the Earth for almost 2,000 years following the Roman Exile in 70 AD. In its place, the largely Gentile Church was ingrafted in as it were to bear the fruits of the Kingdom of God among the nations during this “time of the Gentiles”. However, when the fullness of the Gentiles have come in - by this, Paul was referring to Jacob’s prophecy regarding Ephraim that we learnt about earlier on - Israel will be revived to prepare for Jesus’ return, even as the ingrafted branches of the Church begin to wither - something I hinted at in my last session and that we will go into in greater detail in my future podcasts. And we know that Israel has indeed been reborn since 1948.
So we see then that the Church is not separate from Israel - not distinct from, let alone replace Israel as the final or perfected Kingdom of God. The Church is here for a season and a purpose. To phrase it another way, both Israel and the Church are the same Kingdom of God but revealed in different ways at different times. While Israel was, historically, how God chose to reveal His Kingdom through whom Jesus first came, and eschatologically or in the end times, for whom Jesus will return, prophetically, the Church - which was a “mystery” (Eph 3:6, 10) until then - was how God chose to reveal His Kingdom in whom the Body of Christ reaches its full maturity - the fullness of the Gentiles - before Jesus returns.
This correct understanding of how Israel and the Church are related is important because it determines the Church’s true identity and mission - especially in this Kairos when - as we saw in our last session - Jesus will return soon to establish His millennial kingdom and rule.
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