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Is the church actually the continuation of Israel?


Wailing Wall in Jerusalem Credit: Fernando+Merced/Flickr/Creative Commons

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem Credit: Fernando+Merced/Flickr/Creative Commons

It’s an age-old question. Is the church the continuation of Israel or something completely new that God started after Israel failed to fulfill God’s will? The church under this latter scenario is God’s second choice, an afterthought.

To bring some perspective on this I was intrigued by an article on Breaking Israel News about a sermon recently preached by a famous Hasidic Jewish Rabbi Alon Anava. He was speaking at the 23rd anniversary of the death of another renown orthodox Rabbi, Menachem Schneerson.

In his sermon Anava spoke of the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Though the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, orthodox Jews still believe in a promised Messiah.

In fact, many believe signs suggest that the Jewish Messiah will be revealed very soon.

But Anaya said in order for the Messiah to come, the Jews must first preach the Torah to the gentiles:

“You know what is missing? The nations of the world. Now all we need to do is involve a couple billion people from the other nations to be part of the redemption.”

He then referred to a verse out of Isaiah that showed the nations were to come into Israel as God extended His salvation to gentiles around the world:

He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 NASV)

Though Anaya was looking at this as a yet unfulfilled future event, has this already happened?

Shortly after the Holy Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost  (Acts 2) dramatically impacting the early Jewish church, the Holy Spirit fell again on the gentiles.

Peter who was instrumental in this second outpouring was totally shocked that the Holy Spirit would minister to the gentiles in the same way as the Jews.

45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. (Acts 10:45 NASV)

This quickly became a major controversy in the early church. How were they to handle these new gentile converts?

Some believed the gentiles had to become Jews first (get circumcised) before becoming Christians. Others were not so sure.

They held a conference in Jerusalem to discuss what was becoming a very thorny issue. The crowning moment was when James stood up and shared a verse out of Amos.

Quoting this verse James said:

After these things I will return,
And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen,
And I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will restore it,
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’
18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago. (Acts 15:16-18)

It was at this moment the early church realized that the gentiles coming into the kingdom of God had been prophesied in the Old Testament.

If the promised coming of the gentiles into Israel was being fulfilled in the Church, what does this mean?

Obviously, it meant that Jesus is the Messiah and the church is Israel.

This is why Stephen refers to Israel under Moses as the “church in the wilderness”Acts 7:38 and why Paul refers to the Church as the Israel of God Galatians 6:16.

Sources:

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