December 2021 – All Christians – all denominations, conservatives, evangelicals, liberals – can impacted by antisemitism, anti-Israel rhetoric, theological debate, and political views of the day. (See AFA Journal, 11/21.) The best option to inform Christian thinking on the issues is careful study and comprehension of Scripture. Only then will the church rightly understand the roles of the Christian church and the Jewish faith in the fulfillment of God’s promises and prophecies.
God’s promises for Israel are still true
… the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! (Romans 9:4-5, NIV).
Much contemporary thinking in the church is guided by what has been commonly labeled replacement theology. That school of thought believes the church has replaced Israel and dismisses the role of modern Israel as irrelevant to God’s plan and to the trajectory of current events in God’s kingdom. However, others insist that replacement theology departs not only from accurate interpretation of Scripture, but also from the verity of God’s character.
Dr. Michael Brown, founder of askdrbrown.org, host of Line of Fire radio show, and prolific author, joined AFAJ to discuss scriptural references to God’s plan for Israel. Brown is a Messianic Jew.
“Paul takes three whole chapters in Romans 9, 10, and 11 to deal with God’s eternal purposes for Israel and to make sure the Roman [Gentile] believers understand them,” Brown said. “And Paul ends by saying God’s purposes, His gifts, and calling are irrevocable.”
Brown pointed out Romans 15:8, which says, “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises to the patriarchs might be confirmed.” Brown said this makes it clear that the promises to Israel are confirmed with the coming of Christ, rather than canceled.
And in Jeremiah 31:31-33, the new covenant is described as being made in relation to the houses of Israel and Judah – they are not excluded.
“If God could change His promises to Israel, that means He can’t be trusted,” Brown said. “He gave hundreds of promises to the Jewish people and even said, ‘No matter what you do, I will preserve you as a people and keep My promises to you. Even if I discipline you and judge you, I will keep My promises.’ If replacement theology is true, then God cannot be trusted because all the promises would now be voided.”
God’s prophecies for Israel are still to come
At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord (Jeremiah 3:17a).
The biblical truths that God has spoken about Israel are not all in the past. Both the Old and New Testaments describe many prophecies made for the nation and people of Israel that are yet to be fulfilled.
“The Scriptures indicate that Jesus is coming back to Jerusalem, not to some other city on the planet but to Jerusalem,” Brown said (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 14:1; Jeremiah 3:17). “And He will rule and reign from there, and Jewish Jerusalem must welcome Him back. The Bible says clearly that God’s promises are only fulfilled when Israel gets back in right relationship with Jesus the Messiah.”
Aaron Fruh, also a Messianic Jew, agreed that the full completion of all God’s plans and purposes hinges on how the Israelite people stand in relation to Him. Fruh is a pastor, radio host of Israel and You, and vice president of Israel Team Advocates International (israelteam.org).
He pointed out that Jesus Himself clearly stated the determining role the Jewish people will play in the second coming of Christ.
Fruh explained: “Jesus said to the Jewish people, ‘You will not see Me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”’ So if I were Satan today, I would kill every Jew on the planet. Because if there is not one Jew left to say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,’ [Satan wins] the battle. [Satan wins] the war.”
God’s plan ties the Jew to the Gentile
For I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25-26a).
While replacement theology insists that the centrality of the Jewish people in God’s plan has been played out, others still understand Scripture to reveal that God’s intention has always been for a connected role between Israel and the church in His ultimate plan for salvation. This latter group sees it as a two-part plan.
First, God chose the Jewish nation to reveal to the Gentiles an understanding and knowledge of Him so that they might become recipients of His salvation.
“God says in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, ‘I didn’t choose you because you were the greatest of the nations. I chose you because you were the smallest and the weakest, and I chose you because I love you,’” Fruh paraphrased. “So God chose Israel to be a servant priest nation to all the nations of the earth, and through the Israelites came the promises, the covenants, the fathers, and ultimately, Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, whom we know and love.”
This interpretation of Scripture says the Jewish people are separated from God because they did not accept Jesus as Messiah, and they are lost apart from acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Messiah.
Thus, the second stage of God’s plan is for the church to bring the Jewish people back into right standing with God.
“The Gentile church has a role in Israel’s restoration, and it has forgotten that for 2,000 years,” Fruh said. “So the Gentiles have also been chosen. What are they chosen for? Peter says Gentiles are a ‘royal priesthood, a chosen nation.’
“In effect, Paul says to the Gentiles, ‘You were chosen before the foundation of the earth to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His light.’ Why were you chosen? In Romans 11, it says you were chosen to be a servant priest nation to the Jewish people.”
Fruh then concluded: “God allowed His own people to be broken off, so that the nations might come in and make God’s chosen people jealous of salvation.
“The way I see it is, you [Christians] needed my people, the Jewish people, to get into the fold of God. But now [Jews] need [Christians] to get back into the fold. And my prayer is that the Gentile Christians awaken to their role in Israel’s restoration.”
The startling increase of antisemitism in today’s chaotic culture understandably leads to a challenge for Christians to find solid ground on the issues.
To study the Scriptures on this one, Romans 12:22 (NIV) will be a good place to start: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him”.