We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching
the Bible and understanding our time in
the light of Bible prophecy
Is the Church the new Israel?
When I became a Christian in 1970 I read most of the Bible and came to three main
1. That the Bible is the Word of God.
2. That Jesus is the one way to God.
3. That we are living in the last days.
A major factor influencing me to believe point 3 was the return of the Jewish people
to Israel and the resulting conflict which tied in with such prophecies as Jeremiah
30, Zechariah 12-14, Matthew 24 and Luke 21. I saw also many factors in contemporary
world events which seemed to be pushing us in the direction of the Great Tribulation
and the reign of Antichrist prophesied in the Bible. Somewhat naively I imagined
that Christians who took the Bible literally came to roughly the same conclusion.
I had a rude awakening from this delusion in 1982 when we joined a new charismatic
fellowship in north London which at the time seemed to have a lot going for it; lively
worship, young families like our own with plenty of activity for teenagers, exciting
prophecies that we were going to be a stepping stone on the way to taking London
for Jesus. I was on the emerging leadership team and looked likely to be going to
play a leading role in its development.
The Restoration magazine, produced by Bryn Jones and the Harvestime stream of the
charismatic movement brought out its first broadside against Israel and the pre-millennial
view of end time prophecy. Our fellowship was not under Bryn Jones, but when I took
issue with the interpretation of scripture contained in this magazine I found myself
out of favour with the Apostle who was covering our fellowship and soon realised
that my view of Israel and the end times was not flavour of the month and was placing
me out of the running for any position of leadership in the group. Eventually we
left the fellowship, which far from taking London for Jesus, ended up in discord
and strife and now no longer exists. This was my first serious encounter with the
view of prophecy sometimes known as Dominion theology which teaches that:
1. This age will end with a great revival causing the global triumph of Christianity
with great signs and wonders convincing people of the truth of the Gospel as all
other political and religious systems fail.
2. Prophecies relating to the restoration of Israel in the last days should in
fact be applied to the church because the church has replaced Israel (or is the New
Bryn Jones described a vision in which he summed up this exciting prospect in store
for those who took this line of interpretation:
1. Ordinary Christians would be equipped with supernatural powers, laying hands
on the sick with extraordinary miracles taking place in public places. Poverty would
be abolished among them as multitudes turn to the Lord and have their material needs
met through his provision.
2. The powers of darkness would be overthrown - governments and religious systems
based on principles opposed to the Bible would be shaken as the Church emerges in
power and glory.
3. All nations would reach out to God as the Church is established as the mountain
of the Lords house, the highest of nations. Heads of government in despair at their
own failure to solve the problems of humanity will turn to the revived church asking
them to teach us the ways of the Lord (see Isaiah 2:1-4).
4. Following this great revival the Lord will return for his glorious church and
wind up history.
Bible literal or allegorical?
However exciting this vision appeared, my problem was that it did not line up with
the scriptures which spoke of evil men and seducers waxing worse and worse (2 Timothy
3:13) in the last days, of apostasy, persecution and the rise of Mystery Babylon
the Great, mother of harlots and abominations of the earth (Revelation 17:5), and
of a coming time of such great tribulation that if God did not cut short those days
no flesh would be saved (Matthew 24:21-22). The only way to make out that the church
would end up triumphant in this age was to take the Old Testament prophecies of Israel’s
restoration in the Millennium (i.e. after the return of Christ) and apply them to
the church at the end of this age (i.e. before the return of Christ). This in fact
is what Bryn Jones is doing in the quote above, taking the words of Isaiah 2, which
apply to the reign of the Messiah from restored Zion after his second coming and
applying them to the church today. The church then replaces Israel and rules and
reigns over the nations before the second coming as a result of the great end time
In order to do this consistently one has to take the allegorical view of the prophetic
scriptures which has in fact been the dominant church view since the time of Origen
and Augustine, both of whom taught that the church replaces Israel and that the millennial
reign of Christ is now taking place through the church. An example of this line of
interpretation would be to say that the fulfilment of the regathering of the dispersed
of Judah from the four corners of the earth to the land of Israel (Isaiah 11:10)
is the coming of the Gentiles from the east, west, south and north into the kingdom
of God (Luke 13:29).
It is vital for Dominion theology to take this line of interpretation, because without
it there are no scriptures to justify the idea of the triumph of Christianity in
the last days of this age. Therefore those who insist on taking the literal view
that Israel means Israel in the Old and New Testaments are seen as a threat and their
views criticised and suppressed. However it is the literal view which makes sense
of both the prophecies themselves and the current world situation. Let us now examine
the evidence that Israel remains Israel in prophetic interpretation, after the Church
has come into being. For the sake of brevity I have simply given the references of
most of the passages referred to. To understand the issue it is necessary to look
up these passages .
1. God made a covenant with Abraham, repeated to Isaac and Jacob, to give him
a multitude of descendants and the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession (Genesis
15, 17, 26:2-5, 28:13-15). This was conditional on Gods word, not on the faithfulness
of Abraham’s descendants. If they were unfaithful God reserved the right to remove
them from the land as a punishment for disobedience (Leviticus 26:27-39, Deut. 28:58-68).
However every reference to the removal of the people from the land is always followed
by a promise of restoration (e.g. Deuteronomy 30:1-6).
2. Even after the promise of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God promises
that only if the sun, moon and stars cease to give their light will the seed of Israel
cease from being a nation before me for ever (Jeremiah 31:33-37). This passage significantly
points to the continuation of Israel as a nation after the giving of the new covenant.
3. In the New Testament the words Israel and Israelite are used 74 times. In all
but 3 occasions (one of which is the word Israel coming twice in the same verse)
there is no question that these words are used to mean exactly the same as they mean
in the Old Testament. Let us look at four examples out of 71 in which Israel has
to mean Israel.
(a) Matthew 2.20. While in Egypt after the flight from Herod, Joseph is told
in a dream to go to the land of Israel (note he was not told to go to Palestine!).
(b) Luke 2:32. Jesus is described by Simeon as a light to lighten the Gentiles
and the glory of thy people Israel.
(c) Luke 7:9. Jesus speaking to the Roman centurion: I say to you I have not
found such great faith, not even in Israel.
(d) Romans 9:4. Paul writing of his kinsmen according to the flesh, who are
Israelites, to whom pertain the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, etc.
Replace Israel or Israelite with the church or Christian and you reduce any of these
verses to meaninglessness.
What about the possible exceptions?
Romans 9:6: For they are not all Israel who are of Israel. (A similar thought is
to be found in Romans 3:28-29). Looked at in context the point Paul is making is
not that Jews cease to be Jews when they don’t believe in Jesus or that Gentiles
become Jews when they do. Romans 9 deals with the question of the remnant, an idea
familiar to the Hebrew prophets, whom he quotes at length to make his point. Within
the nation of Israel there are those who are unfaithful and unbelievers as far as
Yahweh, the God of Israel is concerned, and there are those who are faithful. The
spiritual remnant of Israel obeyed the Torah and heeded the words of the prophets.
The backsliding majority did not and came under judgment, the most severe judgment
being their removal from the land. However there was always the possibility that
the unfaithful Israelites would repent and return to the Lord and become believers,
obeying the Torah. That was the purpose of the preaching of the prophets.
Now that the Messiah had come, the spiritual remnant of Israel recognised him and
became Hebrew Christians/Messianic Jews. The unspiritual majority rejected him. However
Paul goes on to say in Romans 11 that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until
the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved; as it
is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness
from Jacob; for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election,
they are beloved for the fathers sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without
repentance. Romans 11:25-29 Therefore Israel will remain a people even in unbelief
because of the covenant which God made with the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob),
to be saved at the end of this age. This is backed up by point 2 above.
In the meantime individual Israelites may turn to the Messiah, as Paul himself has
done, and become part of the church made up of Jews and Gentiles united in Messiah.
Therefore Paul urges the church to pray for Israel to be saved and to take the Gospel
to them (Romans l:16, 10:l).
Galatians 6:16: And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be upon them and
mercy, and (or even) upon the Israel of God. The linguistic key to the interpretation
of this verse rests on the Greek word kai translated and in the AV and even in the
NIV. If and is the correct reading, there are two groups of people in question: those
who walk according to this rule and the Israel of God. If even is correct then there
is one group, those who walk according to this rule who are even the Israel of God.
As a result of the latter interpretation the Israel of God becomes a synonym for
Paul’s argument in Galatians has been with those Jewish Christians who have been
trying to impose observation of ritual aspects of the Torah (e.g. circumcision and
dietary laws) on the Gentiles. He is therefore dealing with two groups of people,
Jewish Christians, who are trying to influence Gentiles to be circumcised and keep
the Law, and Gentiles who are being influenced. So the AV version using the word
and makes sense, because Paul is commending both Jewish and Gentile Christians who
are resisting the pressure of the Judaisers. The Israel of God therefore simply means
the Jewish believers who have understood correctly the implications of the new covenant.
This is consistent with the usual translation of kai as and and not even.
So we can see that even these possible exceptions do not contradict the rule that
Israel means Israel in the New Testament.
Does the New Testament imply a future for Israel?
The Old Testament contains many prophetic passages speaking of a worldwide restoration
of Israel, many of which are connected with the events of the last days and the time
of Jacobs trouble (e.g. Deuteronomy 30:1-6, Isaiah 11:10-12, Jeremiah 16:14-15, 30-31,
Ezekiel 36-39, Zephaniah 3:20, Zechariah 12-14). It has been said by some commentators
that the New Testament has nothing to say about this subject and therefore as far
as Jesus was concerned this was no longer on the agenda. However Jesus treated the
Old Testament as the infallible Word of God and assumed it would be transmitted without
alteration to his followers (Matthew 5:17-18). In the light of this we can assume
that Jesus did not wish to add or take away anything from what had already been revealed
through he prophets on the subject of Israel's dispersion and restoration. There
are however significant New Testament references which imply a future for Israel:
(a) For Jesus own words concerning his second coming (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke
21) to be literally fulfilled there has to be a Jewish presence in Jerusalem and
Judea (Matthew 24:15-22, Mark 13:14-20, Luke 21:20-24). Some opponents of this view
argue that Jesus prophecy of the abomination of desolation, the flight from Jerusalem
and the great tribulation was fulfilled in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem
by the Romans in AD 70. There was no doubt a partial fulfilment of this prophecy
then, but there is no way that this can be a complete fulfilment, since in all three
Gospels these events end in the visible return of the Lord in glory, something which
clearly did not happen in AD 70 and has not yet happened to this day.
(b) Matthew 23:39, announcing the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation
of the Temple, Jesus prophesies to Jerusalem: Behold your house is left unto you
desolate. For I say unto you, you shall not see me again, until you say, Blessed
is he that comes in the name of the Lord. The phrase Blessed is he that comes in
the name of the Lord (Baruch ha ba be shem Adonai in Hebrew) is the traditional Jewish
greeting for the coming Messiah (note Psalm 118:19-29, Matthew 21:1-16). This phrase
has no significance for Palestinian Arabs or any other Gentiles, but is still used
by Orthodox Jews in anticipation of the Messiah coming. This expectation of a Jewish
reception committee in Jerusalem for the returning Messiah harmonises with the prophecy
of Zechariah 12:10 and the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jewish remnant in besieged
Jerusalem as a result of which They shall look upon me whom they have pierced and
mourn for him as for an only son.
(c) Luke 21:24: And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the
times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Whether or not the final fulfilment of this prophecy
took place in 1967 (and my view is that it did not), it clearly implies a future
restoration of Jerusalem to Jewish rule, after the long years of their dispersion
in which they are led away captive into all nations.
(d) In Acts 1 Jesus had the perfect opportunity to settle the matter once and
for all. In the time between his resurrection and ascension he had spoken to the
disciples of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Most important
he had put them right on the matter of Messianic prophecy (Luke 24:44-46), showing
them that he had fulfilled the prophecies of the Suffering Servant Messiah. We are
not told which passages he referred to, but we can assume that Isaiah 53 was a major
subject of this Bible study. There remained prophecies which he did not fulfil at
his first coming, notably Isaiah 2:1-4, which concerns the reigning king Messiah
who would rule the Gentile nations from a restored and redeemed Jerusalem and cause
there to be world peace.
In the light of this the disciples question, Lord will you at this time restore
the kingdom to Israel?, makes sense. What they were saying was: We understand that
you had to first fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 53 by dying as a sacrifice for sin.
Are you now (at this time) going to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 2:1-4, drive out
the Romans and restore the Davidic kingdom to Israel and bring world peace?
Jesus does not say Forget about restoring the kingdom to Israel. That’s finished
now because everything is transferred to the church. He does say that their priority
is to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and to preach the gospel worldwide (which
is still our priority). But the implication of Acts 1:7, It is not for you to know
the times and the seasons which the Father has put in his own power, is that the
Father has a time for the restoration of Israel. This will be sometime in the distant
future at a date which the disciples will not know (because it is linked to the second
coming - see Matthew 24:36).
(e) Romans 11:25-26: So all Israel shall be saved. Replacement theologians say
that Israel in verse 26 means the church, but this makes nonsense of the text and
the context. For three chapters Paul has been discussing Israel’s unbelief and need
of the Gospel, so logically Israel in verse 26 must mean Israel. The theme of a future
spiritual restoration of Israel harmonises with several Old Testament passages and
is implied in Revelation 7, 11 and 12. For Israel to be saved at the end of this
age, there must have been a physical survival of the Jewish people throughout the
The response of the true Church to Israel’s unbelief should have been to follow Paul’s
injunction to pray for Israel that they might be saved. The failure to do this has
resulted in tragic loss for both Israel and the Church. Now that we see the events
of the end times which centre on Jerusalem and the Jewish people unfolding before
us, God is looking for a faithful remnant amongst the believing Christians to pray
for Israel and to point Jewish people to the only one who can save them, the Messiah