The Difference Between Israel and the Church
What is the difference between Israel and the church? This question has been the cause of aggressive debate among Christians for centuries. If both the church and Israel belong to God, can we profess faith in either the Jewish or Christian world views and still have confidence that we are going to heaven? Can we convert to Judaism, revoke our faith in Jesus, deny our allegiance to Him, and still believe that He will allow us to live in His presence for eternity?
“And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9, NASB)
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33, NASB)
Jesus Christ is the King. He created the universe. How can any ethnic Israelite or member of the Jewish religion have any confidence that they belong to God and are called according to his purposes if they aren’t loyal to Jesus? To practice the Jewish religion or to biologically belong to one of the tribes of Israel and at the same time reject Jesus would be like saying, “We belong to God, but he is not our God.” During Jesus’ time and ministry on this earth, He ran into a few select Jews who illustrated this very problem.
They answered and said to [Jesus], "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father." They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” (John 8:39-44, NASB)
Those who belong to God will come to love Jesus. Conversely, those who do not belong to God will never love Jesus, because Jesus is not their King, nor is God their father. But what does it mean to belong to God? Must we convert to Judaism? Must our bloodline trace back to one of the twelve tribes of Israel?
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29, NASB)
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (Romans 9:6-8, NASB)
The children of God, that is, true spiritual Israel, are not known by their ethnic origin, ancestral lineage, or cultural upbringing. There is nothing physical or biological about belonging to God. Only the elect who are appointed to believe belong to God, and among these, only those who do believe and are loyal to their King Jesus can have any confidence that they indeed belong to God, that is, that they are true Israelites.
And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. (1 John 4:3, NASB)
While it is true that there exists a physical location known as Israel and there are men and women on this earth who may be able to trace their bloodline back to one of the twelve ethnic tribes of the physical nation of Israel, neither of these distinctions will ever contribute to a person’s connection or relation to God. The true Israelites are those men and women who belong to God and who eventually believe in their King.
The true church and the true Israel are not two entirely distinct and separate groups, nor did the church replace Israel. Spiritually speaking, there is no difference between the church and Israel. The children of God are the true nation of Israel and those children of God who are loyal to their King are the true church.
For the Scripture says, "whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:11-13, NASB)
Our birthplace, ethnicity, ancestral lineage, and language make no difference to God. Who are the children of God, but the ones who will eventually be loyal to Jesus? Who are the sheep, but the ones who will eventually follow the shepherd? Who are the saved, but the ones who will eventually call on the name of the Lord?
Even when discussing the end of age in the book of Revelation, the defining characteristic for those who belong to God is their courageous and unshakeable loyalty to Jesus. The majority of Christians are martyred in the beginning of the tribulation because they held to the testimony of Jesus. They wouldn't forsake their allegiance to Him, even in the face of death.
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. (Revelation 6:9-11, NASB)
The majority of God's loyal children are martyred and are standing before the altar that is before God's throne. They are petitioning for God to judge those who dwell on the earth who killed them. However, a remaining 144,000 of God's loyal children still happen to be alive on the earth. This remaining 144,000 happened to have escaped martyrdom and are sealed and protected from God's impending judgments upon those who killed all of His other children.
And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." (Revelation 7:2-3, NASB)
It is mentioned thereafter that these 144,000 belong to the twelve tribes of Israel. However, there is no mention of whether or not this is a biological distinction or a spiritual distinction. More importantly, just like the church, that is, the body of Christ, which is comprised of those children of God who are loyal to Jesus, these 144,000 are also loyal to Jesus and they are also continuously being persecuted and martyred throughout the tribulation.
So the dragon [Satan] was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17, NASB)
It was also given to him [the Antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. (Revelation 13:7, NASB)
Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them. (Revelation 14:12-13, NASB)
Some Christians who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture will say that the church isn't mentioned in the tribulation and that the 144,000 of Revelation 7 are not part of the church, but are merely Jewish evangelists. However, only two of the twelve tribes are Jewish, that is, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other ten tribes were captured by the Assyrians, sent up to the caucus mountains, and scattered to the four winds over 2700 years ago. Biologically, these ten tribes could be anyone today, even you and me. More importantly though, the 144,000, or at least the majority of them, are seen holding fast to the testimony of Jesus, therefore they are mostly loyal "slaves to Christ." They are Christians, therefore they are the body of Christ, therefore they are the church. If the two biologically Jewish remnants happen to not be loyal to Jesus, they will render their loyalty to Him when they see Him coming with the clouds near the end of the tribulation. Despite any biological connection the 144,000 may have with the twelve ethnic tribes of Israel, they still belong to God. They were appointed to believe, they will end up believing, and therefore they will belong to the church, that is, the assembly of believers. This is an essential truth that is difficult to grasp without first acknowledging that, spiritually speaking, there is no distinction between Israel and the church. The children of God are the true nation of Israel and those children of God who know who their King is and follow Him are the true church. To say that Israel can be on the earth while the church is absent is spiritually impossible, especially when the majority of the children of God who remain on the earth are found to be suffering and dying on account of their allegiance to their King.
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16-17, NASB)Back