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WHY ISRAEL TODAY IS NOT THE CHURCH

By

Harold Stough

THIS article is more in sorrow than anger because I have a publication which comes from a source which I hold in the very highest esteem as one of the most learned and able Christian institutions of knowledge. You may know of it when I mention the head of it and his very popular book Institutes of Biblical Law by Rushdoony. The latest issue of their publication (a single sheet they send out) of the articles which are all absolutely brilliant as they always have been, but this last one, I just haven't been able to think or see straight for the last couple of days since it arrived because, I'm reading something else and this article comes back to me. I'm mentally forming sentences and arguments about it but at the back of it, I don't know how much the Association is involved. But on the back of this article they advertise the publication of a booklet and it is called, The Church is Israel Now. Those of you who know me will know that this is a subject on which I feel very strongly.

Thinking what I shall say to them, to me this is one of the greatest God dishonouring themes to take. It is not only dishonouring to God but it is unfaithful to the teachings of Christ and the arguments that are put forward in this review, which summaries the book, are more assertions than they are Biblical texts. So in other words it is the author's views of this book that he wants you to judge the whole issue on and he hasn't proved anything by the Scriptures themselves.

Now let me read a paragraph or two of this advert:

During this century Christians have been told over and over again that, 'God has an unconditional love for Old Testament Israel' by which is meant that God's love is directed towards persons racially descended from Abraham regardless of faith or obedience, membership in Israel is therefore viewed as a matter of race not faith.

Now the above is absolutely riddled with assertions without any Scripture behind it at all, because, God does say He has an unconditional love for Israel, and He said, 'By myself have I sworn.' And He makes these covenants and promises to Israel. He said, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love.' 'I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.' ' You are the apple of my eye.' 'Though Israel sin, yet will He still love Israel.' And yet in the depths of her sin in relation to the Hosea prophecies you still find that He says 'I will re-betroth her and bring her unto rnyself.' Now that Israel was so bad that He cast her off but said, 'Ye shall be known as the sons of the living God.'

Now God's love is directed towards persons other than Abraham of course - all mankind is His creation. But He does feel this particular regard towards Abraham and his descendants. Abraham bears that marvellous title 'Friend of God', and He had a companionship with Abraham that was unlike any other. In fact Abraham's name was Abram, but He reached a relationship with Abram in which, some one has called, the Divine Aspirate, the in-breathing, the 'Ha' sound that you find which is the breathing out of God and which He put within the name of Abram making it Abraham or a God in-breathed person of His choice, His friend of God.

And He said 'By myself have I sworn, because He could sware by none greater,' and then there come these unconditional promises made unto Abraham. But that does not in any way say that God's love for others is diminished but it does say that He has this love for Abraham and Abraham's descendants. Now we who teach the fact that God is faithful towards this person, in fact some people say that God speaks to us in two ways: In the Old Testament they say He speaks to us through His son and His son is Israel, in the New Testament He speaks through His son and His son is Jesus Christ. When we read 'out of Egypt have I called my son', He's referring to the Israel people that were called out of Egypt. I know it is also true that the child Jesus was taken into Egypt by his parents for a very short time while Herod was running riot and there was the slaughter of the innocents, but that's hardly a fulfilment of the full meaning of the above.

Over and over again in the Old Testament Israel is called the son. Well a father doesn't desert his son. The New Testament is full of that, The Prodigal Son for instance. However prodigal that son was, God did not desert him. And when the son returned, and said I will go to my Father, it says, his father ran and fell on his neck, kissed him and said this is my son etc. It is almost the same thing that was said of Jacob, when he said, this is my son Joseph, so I know now that he is alive.

There is this symbolism that is so tremendous that we can take this thing doctrinally a bit further because Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees, and by that calling out God made unconditional promises unto him regarding himself and his seed. He was a believer, Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. So if you want you could say that the first Ecclesia was Abraham, he was the called out believer, Ecclesia being the Greek word for church.

Now they go further in this statement: 'The Church is Israel now and demonstrates that the Bible totally repudiates this racialist viewpoint.' The Bible does not repudiate God's call to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Nowhere in the Bible does it repudiate this so-called racialist viewpoint! But he makes it worse he says. 'Being a member of Israel in the Old Testament, was dependent upon faith and obedience to God' No, that's not true either. They were Abraham's descendants and He did not say you will no longer be Abraham's descendants if you don't have faith. They are still literal descendants regardless of the faith factor humanly speaking they were his descendants. Being a member of Israel in the Old Testament was not dependant on faith but obedience to God made your sojourn on this earth more blessed and more in keeping with righteousness because He revealed His righteousness to Israel.

Then it says. 'When the Israelites obeyed God, God loved them.' He loved them anyway, He loved them more when they obeyed Him obviously. 'But when they turned from Him, He hated them.' No He didn't! He hated the sin that was in them, He didn't hate them. God hates the sin that animates them, but He knows how we all are subject and prey to sin, and what it can do to us as a destructive factor. He did not, it goes on - 'Stripped them of their Israelite status.' They were still Israelites. This is a classic example of woolly thinking, it is confusing his ideas of God and his ideas of religion and what he puts through the nationalism of his own thought processes. He's putting his own ideas upper most, in other words, if he doesn't understand God he rejects him and substitutes his conception of the truth rather than the truth itself.

After centuries of Israelite rebellion against God, culminating in their rejection of Jesus the Messiah.' Now that's unfortunately a lie as well, because Israelites had rebelled against God and His laws yes, and they were taken into captivity. But God was still in command when He sent them into this punishment period for their disobedience. He did not cast them off. Paul makes it quite clear when he says; 'Did God cast off His people Israel, God forbid.' He said I also am an Israelite. Paul makes it completely clear that God did not cast away the people whom He foreknew. Now the ones who rejected Him as Jesus the Messiah, were the inhabitants of Jerusalem that were in and around the city at the time of our Lord's Advent. They rejected Him yes. They said, 'We will not have this man to reign over us.' 'We have no king but Caesar.' And they were of small almost minuscule proportion of the entire body of Israel that did the rejecting. But the others were beyond the Euphrates as Josephus said an immense multitude, they were the other sheep that were not of this fold. And the other sheep did not reject Him.

When they had a chance to learn of Him from Paul and the Disciples and the others that went to them giving the news that the Messiah whom they had long sought had actually arrived they accepted gladly. There are even ideas that in far-off Britain, the Druidic faith where there was a belief in the Trinity and had a god whose name was very similar to Jesus, they accepted it gladly when they knew about the Messiah. Over and over again those people who could be traced as of Israelite descent, they did not reject Him. When they had the chance to learn of Him, in the most part they accepted.

'They rejected His title, and the attributes and blessings of Israel were transferred...' Now here is where he must give me a Scripture or his whole case falls ignominiously to the ground. 'that the whole attributes and blessings were transferred to all those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and to no one else regardless of Abrahamic descent.' Now you can see how I'rn getting a bit hot. There's nothing in Scripture that says He transferred, in fact quite the opposite. He took the kingdom from the Jews, 'The Kingdom shall be taken from you.' That is this section there in Palestine at the time. Then it says; 'And it shall be given to a Nation bringing forth the fruits thereof'. This so-called expert would have to prove that the church is a nation, because that is to whom the kingdom was to be given.

He would also have to admit that if it is taken from them, they must have had it or it couldn't have been taken from them. The very last thing said by our Lord, before His ascension was in answer to the question; 'Wilt thou at this time restore, notice that word, restore the kingdom to Israel?' And there is nothing which indicates that He said it is going to be given to the church and Israel is being set aside for ever. They knew this national concept all along and our Lord confirmed it. His parables were about the kingdom, nowhere in the Scriptures does the Bible say the kingdom is taken from the nation and given to a church.

In fact the whole concept of 'church' is a multi- national concept because it is people of all colours, all races, all who accept Christ can become by faith as Abraham's seed and heirs. It's not exclusive but it's a mystical universal body of believers regardless of nationality. And therefore the church can in no way at any time be classified as a kingdom. Now these are the things that I think we ought to be careful of and know about ourselves.

But having said that, I have to explain what I do believe. Let's start with the New Testament in this case. Our Lord's famous words to Peter were: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church.' And the word there for Peter is Petros which means a little stone. Or Cephas - a little stone. 'And upon this rock.' He doesn't use the word petros anyrnore, here it is Petra and upon this petra will I build my church. You're a little stone but this is the rocky, stone kingdom I'rn talking about, it is this rocky substratum, not just a little pebble. And He said He would build His church on this stone or rocky kingdom. Now this was known by Bishop Gore, former Archbishop of Canterbury who gives the same credence to the fact that Peter did not found the church, he says Abraham did. And that's both Bishop Gore and another former Archbishop of Canterbury, I think it was Temple. Christ renewed it around Himself, but it was built upon Abraham the called-out believer. It is from Abraham you get the great doctrinal truths, which follow.

Now to take that further, from Abraham goes the Stone Kingdom forward. The Kingdom that was cut out of the mountains without hands Daniel tells us is to become a great mountain and fill the earth. That's a universal kingdom if it fills the earth, of the increase of His government and peace it says, there shall be no end, upon the throne of David to establish it in judgement and with justice. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this ... So you have this Stone Kingdom that is to become a world-wide kingdom filling the earth increasing without end. And upon this stone kingdom He builds His church.

Now you have this new factor, continuing Israel right on through tirne, it says as long as you have the sun, moon and stars, you have Israel in existence as a nation before Me. But if you can break the covenant of day and night and the sun and moon and stars no longer function, then Israel will cease to be a nation. And that has not happened yet.

The point is that there is this case of continuing Israel and God swore by an oath that this would happen. Mankind and this man in particular have no authority whatsoever to set aside these words.

Now the Israel peoples were known as a congregation in the wilderness. Why they used that word I do not know, but Stephen uses it in his speech. So this congregation in the wilderness had two names, the whole nation of people had the Hebrew word Edah, this represented the bulk of Israel. But there is another word that was used in the Hebrew Qahal, this is that righteous element within Israel that were the believing remnant, they were the people, probably in later years to be the 7000 that didn't bow the knee to Baal. They were this righteous God fearing element, and God said He has reserved that element right on through, and that would be the stabilizing factor for the whole nation. Had there been just ten of them they could have staved off the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus showing that the righteous actions of the few can save the many.

This righteous element, the Qahal is then “the church in the wilderness“, the congregation in the wilderness that ministered largely under the tribe of Levi and the Aaronic priesthood, they ministered to the nation as a whole. There are those who think the Levites were the civil servants and they may well have been, in doing all those things that civil servants do or should do now. Whereas there is the Aaronic priesthood made up of Levi that carried on the priestly office and conducted the worship.

So there is this Qahal that carries right on through Old Testament history, where there is this righteous element right on through the New Testament to the end and there is always this church that is functioning, built upon the foundation of the Nation.

Thus we have reached the conclusion where the nation Israel has to endure forever according to the unconditional promises of God, and the Church exists forever.

Now where the confusion probably comes, is where some take Peter's quotation as the justification for the church; when Peter was speaking to them all he said 'Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.' Now it is here they say, Peter is forming the church. It's not Peter forming the church at all. It's Peter speaking to Israelites reminding them of the same phraseology that was used in Exodus where it said unto the people of Israel when they were formed into a kingdom, God said, 'Ye are a chosen generation to me a peculiar treasure above all people.' And that is the name of the Israel people at the start of their existence when God formed them into a nation at Mount Sinai. What Peter is doing is reminding these Israelites of this terrific inauguration ceremony by God Almighty when He formed them into the nation of Israel. He's reminding them of their Israel heritage, he's not forming them into a church.

That I think is the only verse they use and you can see how they abuse that. Now where we come to a problem though is the fact that the church has a special and highly distinguished role in the plan and purpose of God, The church are the true believers. The church are those who are maintaining the faith, the church are those who are carrying the Gospel of the Kingdom and that's what our Lord commissioned the assembly to do. He commissioned the Disciples 'As ye go preach saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' The church was to preach the kingdom, the light bearers, the Benjaminites. The light bearers were to proclaim this Gospel of the Kingdom not take over the kingdom.

We come to this now, Israel is the Stone Kingdom, the Church is that righteous element in Israel known as the Qahal and it is them that takes on this priesthood of worship throughout Old Testament days and it takes us on into the New Testament. So where did we go wrong? I am not going to say anything I cannot prove, but it seems to me, that this began to go wrong in the early days of the church, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church because they taught that the Pope was supreme, the Papacy was supreme and they have the right to rule and interfere in the affairs of nations and that the Papacy had power over all the kings. They made all the kings and others bow down and worship the Papacy and they had this terrific power.

Now if they were then having a king and making the church into a kingdom, the Pope was obviously the vicar of Christ - the king of kings on Earth. If they are going to justify the fact that they are the kingdom of God and the ruler ship centers on the church it is a universal dominion of the church etc. etc. Then they themselves somehow must do away with that other important factor of the Scriptures which is Israel. They had to conceive of the fact that Israel was the kingdom of God on Earth, but they have got to do away with Israel's kingdom role, and so this teaching comes about that Israel is finished, Israel failed God, God cast them aside and started a new work in the church. So forget about Israel and everything, the kingdom and the church is now the new Israel of the Scriptures. So with a bit of magic, the slight of hand they have done away with Israel and put the church in its place as the Kingdom.

Biblically, however that cannot be done because the Scriptures, Old Testament and New Testament speak about Israel continuing right on to the present day and playing a very important role in the Kingdom of God established on Earth when our Lord returns, the leaders of the twelve tribes, will be sitting on twelve thrones as part of the twenty four elders ruling over the tribes of Israel.

Israel is part of the great restoration anyway, if they are part of the restoration they have got to still be here. It's the new Jerusalem not the new Rome coming down, it's not the new Babylon coming down, it's the New Jerusalem the administrative center of twelve tribed Israel. So, the church's role was formed to uphold and proclaim the eternal truths of the righteousness of God as revealed in His Word. The church is doing its job properly if it proclaims the whole council of God, including the Commandments, Statutes, Judgements and the prophecies and law of the Old Testament, as well as the instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Disciples and the Epistles etc. The church is doing its job faithfully if it maintains and upholds those eternal principles as revealed in the Word and maintains the high calling that was given to them at the very beginning.

Confusion probably comes in because there is such a thing as the Marriage of the Lamb, but the marriage of the Lamb is Israel because the bride made herself ready and receives the new Jerusalem descending. But you see in the case of remarriage you have what Hosea says; 'I will re-covenant her, I will re-betroth her unto Myself. Her former shame will be done away with and He will clothe her with garments of righteousness again.' This is Israel in this role. Israel of the Old Testament is thus confirmed in the New as the Bride of Christ. Isaiah makes it quite clear 'Thy maker is thine husband the Holy one of Israel the God of the whole Earth shall He be called.' Thy maker is thine Husband, in other words Israel, the very name, means Ruling with God. And the true state is Israel as the consort of Jehovah as revealed in the marriage ceremony at Mount Sinai. That role of Israel as the bride is carried on even through the dark days of Hosea's prophecies and Israel's banishment from the land.

Israel has a high role as being therefore the bride of Jehovah. It is not the church who is the bride, for the Word proclaims Israel as the bride of Jehovah. But the church has an even higher role in a spiritual sense because although Israel is the bride, the church is the Body of Christ. There is nothing more sublime or transcendently spiritual than the fact that the church becomes the body of Christ of which He is the head. We are all as the church members, a part of that body. And there is no need to start envying one another. We all have our role to play as part of the body of Christ but we must remember, it is Christ who is the Head.

If you say Israel is the Bride of Christ of Jehovah, take it back to the story of Adam and Eve and you remember that Eve was the wife of Adam, but she was also of his body. And we find that the body of Christ role signifies Eve, just as the church does. You find in the significance of New Testament a symbolism of the marriage ceremony where it says the 'two become as one', and the bride and the groom become as one flesh. Then the nation Israel also becomes as it were the body of Christ in the perfection. This reformation or, metamorphosis of Israel, as Israel becomes the bride, that whole nation becomes as it were a church. You will find that tol be the case because God has promised to so transform Israel, give them a new heart and a new mind and a new spirit. So transforming them as they pass from glory to glory when Israel enters into the fullness of an heir as the Sons of God.

So you will see then why I feel pretty strongly about this because to me it really is a case of dishonoring God by saying God made promises He couldn't keep. To me it is saying that He is not an omnipotent God, an omniscient God, a God of truth. Doing so also raises the question, is the church so righteous? To inherit all these blessings after all? I should say that the church stands condemned to a greater degree than even the nation because the church has been the repository of sublime Christian truths and they have walked away from them. The nation may have also but there is probably more of an inherent sense of righteousness within the people than there is amongst the ministers and the watchmen and the false shepherds. So there is no great redeeming factor in the church to justify all these covenants and promises being transferred to them.

So then, there still is the nation, there still is the church. One is the bride, the other is the body of Christ. And both acknowledge the headship as the bride acknowledges the headship of the husband, so the body has to acknowledge the headship of the head itself , none other than Jesus Christ.

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