The Church and Israel Differences in a Bible Overview

Dr. Mike Johnston

The church is as distinct from Israel as heaven is from the earth and the two separate programs God orchestrated from the creation of the world to govern them (Gen. 1:1; Jer. 33:25). [1]

His program for heaven involves the church Body which was unknown, revealed only to Paul as a “mystery kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25). Its theme is Christ in us (Col. 1:27) and our inheritance in heaven there with Christ (Eph. 1:6; 11, 14; 2:6; Col. 3:1-6). [2] His program for earth, however was well known. It involves prophecy for Israel’s earthly kingdom (2 Sam. 7:13-16) that was progressively unfolded “by the mouth of the prophets since the world began” (Luke 1:70; see Acts 3:21).

Immediately following creation, God’s focus is on the establishment of an earthly Kingdom with man as a steward of its bounty and beauty (Gen. 2). However, when man disobeyed God’s Word and ate from the forbidden tree (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-7), the Lord revealed His gracious predetermined plan featuring a coming Redeemer and triumphant Ruler (Gen 3:15-21; see Rev. 13:8) who would reconcile the world back to Himself (Rev. 21-22).

All of this inspired information flowed from God to His elect nation Israel (Isa. 45:4) through anointed messengers called prophets who progressively exposed and explained God’s will and His word concerning earth and Israel (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21). Their prophecies featured, among other things, five Covenants God made with Israel to guard her and guide her earthly journey spanning the calling of Abraham through the inauguration of the Kingdom. They included the selection of a special man (Abraham) who would be father to a special nation (Israel) [3]  with special Laws (Mosaic) governing them in a special land (Canaan aka Israel), from which a special ruler (Christ, the seed of David) would reign in a special Covenant Kingdom (Davidic). However, the prophets – including John the Baptist – predicted the Kingdom would be preceded by a time of wrath (Isa. 2; Jer. 30-31; Matt. 3:7; Rev. 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; etc) first mentioned [4] by Moses as Tribulation in a maiden prophecy linking it to Israel’s return to the Abrahamic Covenant (Deut. 4:30-31; see Exod. 2:24; 19:5; Lev. 26:41-46). This Covenant relationship has always been a key factor in Israel’s continued blessing which includes her possessing the Covenant Land with the ultimate inauguration of the Kingdom in view (Lev. 26; Deut. 28). Nevertheless, timing for this Covenant Kingdom was unknown until Daniel codified the final 490-years into a prophetic calendar of seventy weeks of seven years with two fundamental stipulations: it MUST be fulfilled by “thy people” (Israel), and it MUST involve “thy holy city” (Jerusalem) (Dan. 9:24-27).

Therefore, when the Lord Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, it was precisely as Daniel – and the prophets – had predicted (Dan. 9:24-27; see Matt. 26:56; see Acts 3:18-26). His mission was to inaugurate the Davidic Covenant Kingdom (Luke 1), so He preached repentance in the gospel of the kingdom to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 4:17, 23; 15:24). However, God knew that Kingdom prophecy would be put on hold when the King was “cut off” (Dan. 9:26) precisely at Daniel’s 70th week. This left one final seven-year period still to be fulfilled by Israel before the Kingdom can begin. This 70th Week of Daniel’s prophecy – also called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) was outlined by Jesus in a thrilling discourse from Mount Olivet.

Scholars call this teaching the Olivet Discourse. It began as a response to urgent questions from Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3) concerning the recently rejected King Jesus and His return to earth to inaugurate the Covenant Davidic Kingdom (Matt. 24:3; see Acts 1:6). Bear in mind, when Christ delivered this the New Testament in His blood was future making the entire discourse part of the Old Covenant narrative (Heb. 9:16-17). It had nothing to do with the mystery church Body of Christ which Christ didn’t mention to the disciples who had no frame of reference for anyway. Instead He described signs for a coming holocaust featuring Israel and using Moses’ term Tribulation (Deut. 4:30; Matt. 24:21, 29). This same word was later used by John (Rev. 7:14) in summing up Daniel’s 70th week of 7 years from commencement (Rev. 6) through to its completion (Rev. 19), when the Lord Jesus returns to earth in Jerusalem as Israel’s Messiah to install the Kingdom in fulfillment of the promises made in the 5 Covenants and the panorama of God’s word “spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21 KJV).

Summary Reflection

Now, in light of what you’ve just read, please consider this summary observation. The Tribulation is for Israel (Isa. 2:12; 13:6; Joel 2; Zeph. 1; Deut. 4:30; Matt. 24:21, 29). The entire period called “trouble” (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Zeph. 1:15) is for purification and punishment before the earthly Kingdom begins (Isa. 24; Jer. 30-31; Joel; Zephaniah; Matt. 24; Rev. 6-19). Israel’s prophets did not know about the church Body. We were completely unknown to them and thus never mentioned in any of their prophesies. To wit, there isn’t a single prophecy specifically naming us or placing us here on earth for a single moment of Israel’s trouble (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Zeph. 1:15) without redefining words like “saints” and “elect” which in Daniel, the Olivet Discourse, and Revelation specifically refer to Israel or Tribulation converts.

[1] “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 KJV). “Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant [be] not with day and night, [and if] I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth;” (Jeremiah 33:25 KJV).

[2] Peter pointed out how Jewish Christians struggled with Paul’s mystery to their theological detriment: “And account [that] the longsuffering of our Lord [is] salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know [these things] before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” (2 Peter 3:15-17 KJV)

[3] “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” (Isaiah 45:4 KJV)

[4] The Law of First Mention teaches that the first time a subject is mentioned in the Bible is how it stands connected in the mind of God throughout Scripture.

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