Preliminary Remarks: At Communion we proclaim Christ’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). We are waiting for something to be different when He comes. Jeremy and I differ on how we read both Old and New Testament prophecy. There is more to come when He comes, and some of what is to come will involve Jewish Christians as a separate group among the redeemed.
1. Jeremy: 'There is only one people of God - Nowhere does the Bible speak of two peoples of God.'
Nor does it speak of the Trinity. We nevertheless infer the concept from the text. There are plenty of examples to suggest that Israel will be a distinct people in the future:
- The New Covenant itself was promised to a distinct people: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). Not the ekklesia. The word “beyth” (house) conveys household family ties, in this case specifically the twelve tribes of united Israel.
- Gabriel told Mary that her son would receive “…the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). The Gentile church is nowhere called the house of Jacob. Mention of Jacob invokes the idea of his twelve sons, the tribes of Israel, because Israel became Jacob’s name. And for Jews (like Mary), David’s throne is universally identified with Jerusalem. So all in all, Gabriel’s announcement was a very national thing to say. Was Mary being promised something that wasn’t as “written on the tin”? If so, why? This was a directive from God by an angel. Was it true or not?
- Jesus said to His disciples: “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28, see also Luke 22:30 – significant for Luke, who tries to include Gentiles wherever he can). Why are the twelve tribes set apart as distinct in some future kingdom where Christ will reign?
- When the resurrected Christ led His disciples out to the Mount of Olives, their minds might have been buzzing with the prophecy of Zechariah 14:4. They knew a time would come when Messiah would set foot on that very hill and inaugurate the new Davidic Kingdom. They asked Him: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). If ever there was a time to correct their misunderstanding, it was then. But Jesus only corrected their need for a timetable – He said the schedule is set, but it’s not their concern. Instead, they have a different work for the time-being: to establish the Church in the Spirit of God (Acts 1:8). The kingdom of Israel would come in the fullness of time.
- That time is shown to us in the closing chapters of the Bible. In Revelation 20:1-7 we read “a thousand years” six times, associated with an age where Christ is reigning fully – a righteous kingdom. The action occurs “down from heaven” (so, on earth) and concerns Christ’s rule during an era when Satan is confined. It seems unrealistic to think that time is now. Before that reign begins, we notice a distinct group, the 144,000. Sealed by God as witnesses on earth (Revelation 7:3). Standing on Mount Zion with Christ (14:1). They are not the Church, they represent the faithful remnant of Israel.
2. Jeremy: 'There was one people of God in the Old Testament and it was open to all on the basis of grace, not race.'
There is strong agreement between us in terms of salvation only through faith in Christ and that Jews and Gentiles alike are individually saved by the grace of God.
3. Jeremy: 'In the New Testament there is one people of God, those who believe in Jesus.'
The “new man” of Ephesians 2:15 is how the People of God are perceived today. That’s the Church. The disciples were to establish this new community before Christ’s return (Acts 1:8-11). Ethnic and national origins are irrelevant in terms of the Church. This came as quite a surprise, and the Jewish Church in Jerusalem convened to deliberate on what to do about it (Acts 15). But even Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, hints at a distinction when he appeals for help for the impoverished brothers in Jerusalem: “For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (Romans 15:27)
In A Nutshell
The Bible speaks definitively of a time to come when Israel will constitute a distinct group within God’s kingdom programme. The remnant of Israel will persist under Christ’s headship as Davidic King (Jeremiah 30:1-7, 32:37; Amos 9:14-15; Ezekiel 39:27-28; Hosea 3:4-5; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30)
Dr Terry Boyle servers as Pastor for Insight for Living UK. Although he began his professional life as a biochemist, Terry holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Ministry and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.
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