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The Kingdom of Heaven is God's True Israel

Many devoted Christians hope the end of these “last days” is near. Seeking signs to prove Jesus’ physical return is imminent, their attention has been fixed upon the Republic of Israel since its founding on May 14, 1948, when this new Israeli state brought to an end nearly 2,000 years of Jewish statelessness. A new look at Old Testament prophecy has resulted.

The hasty conclusion that twentieth century Israel is a restoration of Old Testament covenanted Israel is causing many Christians to watch Middle Eastern political events and speculate on their end-time meanings.

Renewed emphasis on the Old Testament and its prophetic books has resulted in large scale neglect of New Covenant theology. Old Testament study about the vanished covenanted Israel has replaced New Testament teachings about God’s true Israel. An equating of the new Israeli republic with the Old Testament is the result.

This has brought a return of the Jewish heresy which plagued Paul’s ministry and the early church. That heresy teaches that Jews are, in some way, more important to God than any other people. The idea of Jewish “chosen-ness” even after Jesus implies that the Old Covenant, or parts of it, is still in effect.  Strange new teachings abound that belittle the Gospel by contemptuously calling it “Replacement Theology.”    

Emphasizing Old Testament teachings of the Jew’s spiritual exclusiveness and superiority in God’s eyes misses how the New Covenant, reported in the New Testament, changed that doctrine. The natural byproduct of BC doctrines is that today’s Israeli state is felt to be the same as BC Israel. Articulate teachers press this belief from every direction by every media. 

Strong emotions stemming from end-time hopes can numb theological logic which should be warning that something is amiss. Everyone should be asking: “If Jews are so special to God, and Israel, because of the Jews, is the most important place on earth, what’s with being a Christian? What happened to the Christian’s first place with God?”

Clear reasoning should tell us that current Jewish/Israel/Zionist teachings relegate Christians to second class citizenship in God’s plan of action! 

Logic shows that such Zionist theories yield two covenants, with the old one of the Jews having priority to the New Covenant of Jesus.  That implies the New Testament is a fraud – which is what Jews assert. Two covenants can’t be if we are to read and believe the New Testament.

The Christian message is about only one covenant, the one Jesus brought with His blood on the cross. If Jesus’ Covenant is the one and only, then any teaching contrary to that is heretical. Christians do not accept two covenants, one of faith and the other of race.  Jews do not accept Jesus’ Covenant of freely given faith and grace.

This is a real problem in our times - too many people teaching too many end-time theories, all starting from the existence of the Israeli state. Using the prophetic books of the Old Testament, while ignoring the New Testament message, yields incorrect conclusions.

From this overabundance of speculative prophecy, soothsaying and much pure fiction, comes many contradictions. Resulting confusion, debate, and division within the body of Christ dampens our love for one another. Because of these differences, we experience an erosion of our peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. In short, we are arguing about unproven nonessentials when we should be sharing love and agreeing on essentials. Our calling is to be peacemakers, not debaters.

Being an imitator of Christ is different than being a commentator on the implications of international political and economic events. Christians are required to be experts on the words of Jesus rather than those of some soon-to-pass prognosticator who promotes peculiar prophecies.

Too often we are found studying the latest paperback opinions on the meaning of the most recent event in the Middle East, instead of using our time to study the words of Jesus, the “red letters” of the New Testament.

Granting the importance of Jesus’ return, how do we study about it? How do we find the truth about our continuing hope for his final coming? We must commit ourselves to finding the truth, in spite of our fondest hopes and most pleasing opinions. Truth, regardless of its comfort, or lack of it, must be our primary goal. God requires truthfulness from us. This requirement directs us in a single-minded search for it, regardless of the consequences.

To satisfy ourselves, we need to do our own search for the end-time truth. We need to know we have found the truth, and not simply blindly followed another’s untested opinion.

The primary trustworthy source of information is Jesus’ actual words. These are the red letter sayings of Jesus in the New Testament. Because He is our Teacher and Master, we always look to Him first. Before accepting any spiritual teaching or opinion, we must find His words,

We must test each idea by asking, “What did Jesus say?” When we look to His words we usually find the answer we need with little difficulty.

Measuring all ideas against Jesus’ words gives us a foundation of understanding to which we can add more information from history. So, the source of historical records, for a Christian, is first the Bible and then secular records.

In studying the Bible, Christians place primary importance on the New Testament, so we study it in an orderly way: Jesus’ words first, then the balance of the New Testament in the order in which it is preserved, and finally the Old Testament in its preserved order. This prevents our taking scripture out of context with resulting invented doctrines, too often contrary to God’s order of thought and transmission.

Last, we look to reliable secular historical records about our religion. These records are important because they give information on events which occurred after the Bible was completed. Studying all such available records, after the Bible, usually reveals full historical truth.

To find the truth about God’s true Israel and its relation to the end-time, we must apply this test and search all these sources.

History’s record testifies that before the formation of the twentieth century Israeli state, all Christian theology taught that God’s new Israel was the spiritual Kingdom of God, neither worldly nor political.  History also proves that all end time prophecies during the past 2,000 years have been wrong – except Jesus’ predictions of the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple, his resurrection, his spiritual return to Earth, and the coming of the Holy Spirit to make Christians temples to replace the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem.

Before the cross, Israel was both a political and a spiritual kingdom in a geographical location. After the cross it became God’s spiritual kingdom, not a worldly place or power (John 18:36), with all believers in Christ as citizens. Simply, it was not a place but a spiritual condition. It was the condition of being born again through belief in Jesus.

Martin Luther explained this traditional view in his classic commentary on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Discussing Galatians 6:16, Luther wrote the following passage.

“When Paul adds: ‘And upon the Israel of God,’ he touches the false apostles and the Jews who gloried and bragged that they were the people of God, that they had the law and the promises. So it is as if Paul said: ‘They are the Israel of God, those with faithful Abraham who believe in the promises of God offered in Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, and not they which are the begotten of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob after the flesh.’ But this entire matter was handled before in the third chapter.” (See Galatians 3:7 ff, especially 3:26-29.)

Without questions, Jesus said His kingdom of the New Covenant was not a worldly or political entity. In the red letters of John 18:36 (RSV) Jesus explained, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship was of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews.”

Next, it is clear that entry into God’s kingdom does not come through a blood relationship to Abraham, but through faith in Jesus. Checking Jesus’ words again, we see He said the Jews were satanic and not children of Abraham.

The record of this is Jesus’ statement, “If you were Abraham’s children you would do what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me... You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” (John 8:31-57, esp. 39-44 RSV.)

Paul, himself a Jew, fully knew the Jewish misunderstanding about salvation through race rather than through faith. He gave us the famous Galatians chapter three explanation, secured by verses 26-29. (RSV.)

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one n Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

This shows that the Old Covenant, with Jews the covenanted people, was replaced by the New Covenant of faith through Jesus Christ. The new holy nation (Kingdom of God; Kingdom of Heaven) is made up of all who are one in Christ. Spiritual Israel has replaced the earlier worldly Israel since the cross and Jesus’ resurrection.  When Jesus died on the cross, the old Covenant died with him (Matthew 27:50,51). When he arose, the new covenant arose with him.

The theology of this change is more formally explained in Hebrews, chapters seven through ten, (especially 8:6,7,13 and 10:9,10). Replacement of the Old Covenant means that with Jesus, God abolishes the first covenant to establish the second or New Covenant.  (Hebrews 8:7 & 13.)

Clearly, there is only one covenant, the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. Since the Old Covenant is gone, vanished away, there are no covenantal promises or prophesies remaining in it for the Jews and a Jewish Israel. These now belong to the new Israel of God by faith.

The impossibility of two covenants, one Christian and one for Jews, is obvious. Jesus said He is the way, and no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). This excluded a Jewish covenant given through race with promises and prophecies that substitutes for Jesus’ covenant.

To do an overkill on this point, we may review the fourth chapter of Romans and the second chapter of Peter’s first letter.

In the Roman letter Paul assures us, in the promise to Abraham and all his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the “righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13, RSV.)

The Apostle Peter taught the True Israel truth in another way. Christians, the entire body of Christ, are now God’s chosen people. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you have not received mercy but now you have received mercy.” (I Peter 2:9, RSV.)

The conclusion is that Christians, the Body of Christ, are now God’s holy nation, the true Israel under the Gospel, since Jesus’ salvation. Christians are the inheritors of Abraham’s promises through faith in Christ The old Israel and the Old Covenant to the Jews ceased and vanished. That covenant ended when Jesus died on the cross. Promises and prophesies to BC Israel now belong totally to those under the New Covenant. Those closed for Israel of the Jews on the first Easter Sunday.

Christian faith is in the shed blood of Jesus purchasing our New Covenant with God at his cross. By grace, both Jew and non-Jew can come into the new Israel of God through faith, not by race or by works.

Heresy is to teach that a Jew, by virtue of his race (flesh), is still a chosen one of God through the Old Covenant. The same heresy claims that a collection of Jews (even agnostics, atheists, and secularists) who inhabit the political Israeli state is still a chosen people under the Old Covenant, receiving the promises and prophesies of that covenant just because they are born Jews and live in a nation calling itself “Israel.” 

Also countering this heresy is the historical disproof of claims about the Israeli republic. Contemporary Israel is NOT the first Jewish state since the Old Testament prophecies were written, it is the third.

All end-time prophecies arising out of the Israeli state in relation to events in the Middle East rest on a common mistake. That mistake is the belief that the 1948 restoration of Israel is the first and only restoration since the Old Testament times. This is taught by all speculative end-time prophets, who believed restoration has not occurred before and that it signifies something very unique.

History contradicts this belief. The fact is that there were two independent Israeli monarchies, with temples, in the inter-testamental period between the Old and New Testament writings. Contemporary Israel is outside the Torah because is not a monarchy and does not have the necessary Temple.

The first kingdom was reestablished after the Maccabean revolt occurring about 152 BC.  Israel won its independence from the Seleucids, a “tribe” (nation) from the north (Syria) in that year after a long and bloody struggle.

Jewish patriots recaptured and cleansed the temple, an event commemorated by the ‘Festival of Lights’. The restored monarchy, known as the Hasmonaean Dynasty, gave a period of peace and prosperity from 152-65 BC It had a fully restored priesthood, and temple worship, according to the law. The monarchy ended in civil war, with two Hasmonaean heirs struggling for the throne.

Roman interest in the area began about 65 BC Herod the Great neutralized Roman influence through diplomacy and entered the conflict as a third contender for the throne. He won the civil war in 37 BC and became king.  This was the second kingdom.

Herod’s reign began with independence from Rome, even though Israel later became a puppet state by his death in 4 AD. That later servitude of Israel obscures the fact that Herod was first independent. Thus, in the beginning under Herod’s rule, Israel was allied with, but not subject to, Roman rule. Therefore, Herod’s independent monarchy was the second time Israel was an independent nation between the close of the Old Testament and 1948.

Lacking the Temple, the ark, a priestly hierarchy, regular blood sacrifices, and the annual Day of Atonement, Israel lacks what the law requires. Israel lost all of these religious necessities in 70 AD, when Titus’ Roman troops sacked Jerusalem. Modern Israel can not become Old Testament, covenanted, Israel unless the religious requirements of the law are met. Since it has not met those requirements, it is not Biblical Israel and is not a beneficiary of Old Testament prophecies and promises.  In fact, Old Covenant (Torah) Judaism does not exist.  It has vanished and is replaced by the New Covenant as Jeremiah prophesied. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Any restoration of covenanted Israel would subvert Jesus’ exclusive New Covenant. Israel can never be in a Torah relationship with God, and under His anointment, without blood atonement. It cannot have atonement without blood sacrifices. It cannot have blood sacrifices without its temple and priests, using the prescribed religious artifacts which remain lost and unrecoverable.

A restoration of ancient Israel’s religion would necessarily be a competitor religion to Christianity in the same way Islam, Hinduism, and other Pagan religions based on works contradict Jesus’ New Covenant that is based on faith given by grace.  It would deny and replace Jesus and his Gospel.

The new Israel, God’s true Israel, a holy nation, is in fact the Christian community. This body of Christ, the whole collection of Christians, received atonement through the one final sacrifice of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross. Jesus remains the high priest, the only mediator between man and God.

Through Jesus’ final work, anyone can become a temple by receiving the Holy Spirit. Our body, not a building, becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit through the baptism given by Jesus’ sacrificial blood and free grace. This is the New Covenant which replaces that vanished Old Covenant.  It is the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Consequently, all claims that the Republic of Israel is a restoration of Old Testament Israel fail. Israel is not Torah Israel since it is neither a monarchy nor does it have a functioning temple. It is not spiritual Israel because the body of Christ is God’s true spiritual Israel. Finally, it is the third restoration, and not the first as is mistakenly asserted.

Since the Israeli state is not Biblical Israel, all speculations and conclusions from Middle East events have no end-time significance. Any concept which starts in error also ends in error. A bad tree cannot yield good fruit, according to Jesus. (Matthew 7:18.)

Knowing we cannot rest our end-time hopes on the Israeli state and the political events of the Middle East, we must find a surer barometer. In our hope for the “soon” coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we want to know the signs to be inspected.

The directions which we can follow are simple and easy to find in the New Testament. We need only search the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles on this subject. We do not search the Old Covenant prophets.

First, we look to Jesus. What did He say? He never bothered to speak on His second coming until directly questioned about it. When asked, He answered fully in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew. He said there must be catastrophic climatic and political tribulations before He comes. But, even before that, all nations must be made disciples of Jesus by the preaching and teaching of His Gospel. (Matthew 28:18-20, esp. 28:19; also Mark 13:3-36, and Luke 21:7:36.)

Paul helped to clarify end-time signs by writing to the Thessalonians. There he said Jesus would not come again until the “son of perdition . . . takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God”. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, esp. 3 & 4, RSV.) Since there is no temple in Jerusalem, this event is not in sight.

A more complete list of “the things which shall be” is written in John’s Revelation 4:1-22:5. Few can agree on the exact meanings of these complex allegories. More debate is expended on Revelation than any other scripture. Debate and divisiveness are unnecessary regardless of interpretations. The meaning of Revelation is unknown and no two people have ever agreed on it.  Its purpose is totally misunderstood.  (See http://www.revelation-101.org/ )

We can always go back to the basic Source for understanding. What did Jesus say? What did He command us to do for Him before the end can come?

“Go therefore and make disciples (matheteuo) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19 RSV, and NKJV, Strong, Vines, Dakes, etc.)

We have our work cut out for us if we want to see Jesus come in the flesh anytime soon. At least half of the world’s population has not even heard Jesus’ name, much less been converted and discipled. We will never fulfill this commandment while debating and speculating on Middle East events.

What shall we do? What is our next move? What would Jesus have us do? More speculation and debate or more Jesus? 

We might start by thinking how we might convince 1.2 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, 1+ billion Pagans following other spiritual concepts, the innumerable agnostics, Jews, and lost “System Christians”  to God’s True Israel.   What ideas can you offer?

It appears that in the 2,000 years since Jesus sacrifice, of the 6.4 inhabitants of Earth only 400, 000,000 are in God’s True Israel.  The score is 6 billion out of the Kingdom, 400 million in it. What can be done to change that?