There is one ‘People of God’ called the ekklesia. This Greek word from the New Testament, translated “church,” means “the called out ones”. It was used to describe a distinctly called-out group, for instance, a political body of representatives. The ekklesia does not replace Israel as the people of God, nor is it a scripturally unforeseen interruption in His plan for Israel, to once again be resumed when the Church is secretly raptured, today’s two most common errors in understanding who God’s people are. The ekklesia has been God’s elect (or chosen ones) since before Israel even existed-it would be prudent to find out how one gets into this highly desirable group!
These two errors, the first of which is called Supercessionism or Replacement Theology, is championed by many Covenant theologians in the Reform movement. It says, in essence, that Israel/the Jews dropped the ball and so God instituted a new plan called “the Church.” All promises made in the Old Testament specifically to the Jews are now forfeited by them and become the Church’s spiritual inheritance; i.e., replace the O.T. word “Israel” with “Church”. Where this view most negatively impacts Israel concerns its land: the Supercessionists say that Israel returning to its ancient homeland has no prophetic or end times significance; in fact, many will state that it belongs to the Arabs and the Jews shouldn’t even be there. Obviously, their wrong understanding of scripture has serious consequences to Israel.
The second error, that the Church “dispensation” will end with the Rapture when God will resume His dealings with Israel, is called Dispensationalism. This group believes that God will use a 7-year long Tribulation to chastise His people Israel; He will use the plagues and disasters described in the Book of Revelation to turn their hearts back to Him. Dispensationalists make esoteric distinctions like ‘Israel is the wife of God, but the Church is the Bride of Christ’. They infer these types of beliefs from scriptures that do not actually make such plain statements. This view got its start in the 19th Century, most prominently with John Nelson Darby. One of the problems with this belief is that they see God having two distinct peoples—Israel and the Church.
Here are several important concepts and scriptures to help us in our understanding:
Faith in God’s Provision Has ALWAYS Been Pleasing to Him, Not the Works of the Law ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Rom 4:3-5) God did not have a different means of justification for the Jews and the Church–only one, which is faith. Faith existed before Israel with Abraham, during the days of Israel in the Tenakh, and continues after Yeshua came to reveal God.
The New Covenant was Promised TO THE JEWS, Not to a Future Church “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31) The new covenant didn’t signal a break in God’s relationship with His people, but a new start. God continues: “They will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (v34) Yeshua instituted the new covenant with the Jews, not the Church.
Gentile Believers in Yeshua are GRAFTED IN to Israel, Not the Other Way Around The branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. (Rom 11:17-20) To hear some believers, God allows Jews to become part of “the Church”. No! The ekklesia is “called out” of the world and is “grafted in” to the Olive Tree, clearly Israel, as the context of Chapter 11 shows.
The Ekklesia (or “Church”) Existed During ‘The Exodus’ …This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.’ This is the one who was in the congregation (ekklesia) in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai (Acts 7:37-38) Jesus also uses the word ekklesia twice—the exact term translated “church” in English is used to describe God’s elect prior to the Day of Pentecost.
Yeshua Will Return TO ISRAEL and Jerusalem from Where He Will Rule the World There are many verses indicating this; stay tuned for the next installment of this series. The significance of this to our topic is that our savior Yeshua is a Jew, the promised Messiah. We are grafted in because of the promise made to Israel. We should not therefore proudly assert our identity apart from, or in replacement of, them.