SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH
Replacement Theology, Part 3 Acts 11:15-16
Good morning. Believe it or not the hardest part of this is getting from there to here. I want to thank, first God, for giving me another opportunity to teach His Word to you, allowing me to continue this series. Did you guys hear Andy’s Steeling the Mind session; it was great. You guys should tune in. Did he teach this morning…
The title of this sermon is Replacement Theology, What We Should Know, Part 3. Before we start can we pray? Father God we acknowledge You as God Almighty and we just want to praise You; we want to praise You because are the maker of heaven and earth and we commit this time to You, Father, use me as You see fit and it’s in Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
In prior sessions together we went to great lengths to lay a foundation in regard to replacement theology. We attempted to trace the line of replacement theology throughout church history. We asked and answered many questions, like what is replacement theology? And we established that it is… also it’s known as supersessionism, fulfillment theology, and it’s the idea that Israel, because of her rejection of her Messiah, has been essentially disowned by God, therefore forfeiting all of her promises, her covenantal promises, only to be superseded by the church. And according to replacement theology the church now becomes true Israel and the church fulfills the role of Israel, thus applying all her promises. And we also asked when did replacement theology show up, we went all the way back in church history and found that the concepts therein never really showed up until the mid-second century.
We discovered that the formulation and the rise of this doctrine was really a mixture of things, a series of historical events that happened with both the church and Israel, things like a separate relationship between the Jewish community and the church, a new and growing Gentile church [can’t understand word]. And because of this relationship, this strained relationship, the Gentile church began to perceive and interpret Scripture with an anti-Semitic bias or lens; mix that up with Greek philosophy and you get allegorizing of Scripture and the rise of allegorizing of Scripture is what essentially solidified these ideas within the church.
We also learned the rise of certain historical figures, Constantine, which opened the flood gates of a dominant Gentile and anti-Semitic church. It’s been said when Constantine came into power the kingdom was here, the earth was Christianized and we are living in the kingdom now. And this also propelled the idea of replacement theology. We briefly talked about the idea of amillennialism, when there is no coming kingdom, rather it’s here now and in our midst. And I’m glad that Pastor Andy is starting a series on The Coming Kingdom which dispels this idea, he will, eventually dispel this idea of amillennialism and set the record straight.
We also looked at the effects of replacement theology on the Jewish people which was continual persecution and oppression and all throughout history post Israel, the Jews, in some way or some form to some degree, by many of the world power’s tyrants and figures have been persecuted and oppressed and harassed, even to this day. And there is no nation I know of in the history of nations that has ever been bullied around like Israel has.
We learned how dangerous replacement can be and how it affected the church and what it brought into the church through is doctrine, through its practices, through art, and things of that nature. It affected how the church viewed Israel and treated Israel and the evangelical church since then, since the second century, has an ugly and embarrassing past in regards to her relationship with the Jew.
Replacement theology can also shift and derail the role of the church, the function of the church. Beyond that we also discovered that the theology affects the church’s eschatology, the view of the end times. And this doctrine is deeply entrenched in the church today and has far reaching implications affecting not only the church but government policy, as we have seen with the prior administration. But thank God for new administrations, right? Thank God that He is in control.
So the first two sessions we kind of zoomed out and saw things from a birds eye view of replacement theology. Today in part 3 we’ll continue in this vein and kind of zoom in, get a little bit closer and try to answer the question, does the Bible support replacement theology. And to lay the groundwork for this session we really have to understand what we’re dealing with, who and what we’re dealing with here.
To answer the who question we’re dealing with family here, truly we’re dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we’re dealing with brothers and sister who hold to a train of through on the very opposite end of the theological spectrum. And in fact, there could be people in this room or listening via the website and online that has those view; in fact, I know there is. So this is an in-house discussion, an in-house debate, family debate. But at the end of the day we’re all saved, amen! And so I think it’s only fitting that before we dig into this no matter what theological persuasion you may have we check our pride and leave it at the door as we approach this topic, and do so in love, amen!
So to answer the what question we’re wrestling with an idea that I believe, as we have learned, that’s plagued the church since its inception, the idea that the church has replaced or fulfilled or superseded national Israel. And surely if replacement theologians say that this is the case then we should find ample evidence of this idea represented in Scripture. Right? So my goal for today is not to attack but to both reference their scholars from both camps and more importantly go to Scripture and really see what the Bible says about this idea of the church and Israel because this is what we’re dealing with here; the church, the idea that the church has replaced Israel. Does the Bible support this idea of a covenant-keeping God replacing the apple of His eye, Israel?
There are two competing views in this equation; there are those that hold to a dispensational theology and then there are those to a perspective called covenant theology. You can also call it Reformed theology. Covenant theologians, by and large, hold to the doctrine of replacement theology or fulfillment theology. So very briefly here’s a helpful chart that delineates distinctives of both covenant theology and dispensational theology. You are in a dispensational church, by the way, and you will notice all the major portions to the left, or positions I should say, to the left and beliefs to the right of both the covenant and dispensational theology. The hermeneutic, that’s just a fancy way of saying the art and science of Bible interpretation of the covenant theologian is a partial allegorical one where as the hermeneutic of the dispensational theologian is a normal, literal interpretation. That’s not to say the covenant theologian doesn’t use literal interpretation, by and large they use allegorical interpretation for things like prophecy, and eschatology.
Concerning the purpose of God, unlike covenant theologians we view God’s underlying purpose in the world as… let me rephrase that, covenant theologians view the purpose of God as soteriological or salvific, and the dispensationalist believes that the purpose of God is doxological meaning that God is at work in the world today for His glory and His glory alone, that God’s glory is the end game if I could say it that way. His purposes can’t be soteriological, that’s not to take anything away from salvation or soteriology but who gets the glory when the unbeliever is saved? God does. Salvation is a glorious thing but salvation is not the end game; His glory is.
Moving down the church, how do the two camps view Israel and the church? In complete opposites, there’s no distinction says the covenant theologian. In fact, the church takes her place and appropriates her role, Israel’s role. And notice, if you will, the top three tiers, Hermeneutic, Purpose of God, and Israel and the Church. This is what is known by dispensationalists as the sine qua non of dispensationalism. In other words, these three positions are the trademark of a genuine dispensationalism; they go hand in hand.
This is what Ryrie said concerning the sine qua non: “ The essence of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God and that is glorifying Himself” at the end game here. Feel free to review the chart on your own but I just wanted to show a stark contrast of the two camps and get an idea of what we’re up against, an opposite of systems. More of the modern and prominent covenant theologians today would include such people as Louis Berkhof, Charles Hodge, Kenneth Gentry, John Stott, R. C. Sproul, Sr. and Jr. and many more covenant theologians.
Now let’s zoom in a little closer. Why do replacement theologians believe that the church has replaced Israel, or has no distinction? Why do they believe that? And where do they get this idea that the church has superseded or fulfilled the role of Israel? And again surely if that’s the case the Bible would have a handful of evidence, of text, or passages that would explain that. Or even God’s decree that God has inaugurated this transformation of Israel to the church. Right? But that’s not the case; I don’t believe the Bible makes such declaration. And I know I mentioned to a few of you that we were going to engage Galatians 6:16, Romans 9:26 and we will, but I think patience at this point in our study will benefit us. But I think patience [Galatians 6:16, “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” Romans 9:26, “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ There they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”] I believe I would be doing you a disservice if we did not settle the issue of biblical distinction between Israel and the church.
On the top there, William Cox, an amillennialist said “‘The terms Israel and the church in the Bible can be used ‘interchangeably.’” On the bottom, a man named Kenneth Gentry said this: “ “…we believe in the unfolding plan of God in history, the Christian Church is the very fruition of the redemptive purposes of God. As such, the multi-racial, international Church of Jesus Christ supersedes racial, national Israel as the focus of the kingdom of God. Indeed, we believe the church becomes ‘the Israel of God’” and then he references Galatians 6:16, (Italics mine).
Now allow me to challenge these ideas and show from Scripture that the Bible does… the Bible DOES distinguish Israel from the church. And the following, I believe, are five of the strongest Scriptural evidences that prove the distinction between Israel and the church. So here we go. The first biblical evidence for the distinction of Israel and the church is that the church was born at Pentecost… the church was born at Pentecost! In contrast, Israel came from a man called Abram. The very first reference of the term “church” or ekklesia in the Greek, ever found in the Bible is Matthew 16:18, [“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”]
However, you notice that when Christ uses this term, Christ uses the term church, He uses it in a future tense, “I will build My church.” Many of you are familiar with that verse. Here the church is prophesied; the Bible actually records the birth of the church in Acts 2 and it’s a beautiful account of the twelve apostles, Matthias being the new guy, on the day of Pentecost. They obeyed Jesus and stayed in Jerusalem and waited for the Holy Spirit who was to come upon them, and as the story goes the Holy Spirit fell upon them like a rushing wind and they began to speak in other languages. And on that day Scripture says three thousand souls were saved, Acts 2:4, [Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”]
It also says the Lord was adding to their number day by day. That was in Acts 2:47. [“praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”] So Christ was already at work fulfilling His promises of building His church. Didn’t He say “I will build My church.” He said that in Matthew 16:18. [Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”]
In contrast, when did the nation of Israel begin? It began with one man, Abram, in Genesis 12:1-3. God declares to Abraham a handful of beautiful promises, one of them being a great nation.
[Genesis 12 1, “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;  And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing;  And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”] This is even before the covenant of Abraham.
Lewis Sperry Chafer in his 18 volume Systematic Theology set said this about the Jewish people, “By the call of Abraham and all that Jehovah wrought in him, a new race of stock was begun which, under unalterable divine covenants and promises, continues forever.”
He goes on to say, “So different is this race as to distinctive characteristics that all other people are antipodal” meaning diametrically opposite to distinction. “… they are classified as ‘the Gentiles’ or ‘the nations’ as in dissimilarity to the Jewish nation”
So Israel has existed in the days of Genesis, coming forth from a man named Abraham, and in contrast the church came forth on the day of Pentecost, well over two thousand years removed from Israel. The church is also called the body of Christ, we’ll talk more about that later, but once the church was born entrance into this body was subject to extreme vetting, imagine that, meaning not all could come but only through a spirit baptism. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says that.
[1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”]
Jesus called it being born again or being born of the Spirit. John 3:3. [John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” And one condition triggered it… one condition alone, and that’s faith alone in Christ alone!
And on that note when did the Spirit baptism into Christ’s body actually begin? In Acts 1:5 Jesus said, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” This is Jesus speaking.
Then during the birth of the church, in Acts 2, look what Luke says: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit….” The birth of the church was at Pentecost. Well some say okay, Luke doesn’t use the term spirit baptism there in Acts 2:4, he uses the term filled with the Holy Spirit.
Well, Luke actually confirms this Spirit baptism all the way in Acts 11:15-16 which was our opening verse. Luke records Peter saying this: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning.” What beginning? The beginning of the church in Acts 2. Verse 16 says, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say,” now he’s referencing Christ statement in Acts 1:5, “‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” Spirit baptism!
In contrast membership to the Jewish nation was by birth. Membership required being descended from the loins of Abraham, or you could become an Israelite by conversion to the nation, also known as a proselyte. Yet the replacement theologian or supersessionist or the fulfillment theologian claims that the church and Israel have no distinction and that the church has always existed. I cannot agree with that statement given the biblical evidence, because of the glaring difference of over 2,000 years between the two entities. The Bible doesn’t support that view. The Bible teaches that the church was born at Pentecost while the nation was wrought from a man named Abram in Genesis 12.
The second evidence for the distinction of Israel and the church is this: certain events of Christ were essential to the establishment of the church, namely the resurrection and the ascension.
Regarding the resurrection, Ephesians 1:2-23 says this: “which He” who’s “He”? That’s God the Father, “brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,  which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” In other words, the church would not exist or be functional if it were not for the resurrection of Christ. It was necessary for this future entity.
And what about the ascension? In John 14:12 Jesus says something very interesting to His disciples and I believe what Jesus was doing in this statement, in John 14:12, “He was looking forward to His own church. How do I know that? Well, the reference is in John 14 and this is a pop quiz for all you Bible students, what is happening in John 14, particularly between chapters 13 and 17? The Upper Room Discourse. From what we learn in the book of John, that the Upper Room Discourse Jesus reveals seed form truths about His building project, called the church.
So regarding Christ’s ascension in John 14:12 Jesus says this, “Truly, truly,” notice those words, “I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” He’s speaking of the ascension here, “because I go to the Father.” Notice the term “because.” It’s the Greek word hoti, The BDAG calls it the marker of causality. If I could say it another way Jesus was saying to the apostles, who were the foundations of His church, you will not have the ability to perform greater works than Me if I do not go back to My Father. So this power of doing greater works, also known as the Holy Spirit in us, could only be manifest after the ascension of Christ. These two events, the resurrection and the ascension were essential for the establishment of the church.
In contrast, what certain events were essential to the establishment of the nation of Israel? The Bible says it hinged on the faith and the obedience of one man, Genesis 12:1 says this: “Now the LORD said to Abram, Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;  And I will make you a great nation….” So prior to God’s calling Abraham, Genesis revealed that there was one division of people on the earth, just one. Genesis 11:1 says, “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.” God Himself called them one people with the same language.
In Genesis 11:6, if you read further you’ll learn the account of the tower of Babel. Andy is going through a study of the coming kingdom on Wednesday nights, I just put his face up there for a plug, and it’s called The Coming Kingdom. And I encourage you to go, it’s a great study. But in Andy’s book he refers to a historian, Alexander Hislop and in Hislop’s research he discovered that there was one world political, economic and religious system going on there in Genesis 11, headed up by a man named Nimrod.
And that religious system was called the mother/child cult. This slide is probably familiar to some of you.
And since God knows what absolute power given to a single person can do or can result in, absolute corruption, what did God do? He halted this building project dead in its tracks by confusing their language. And once God did that Hislop said each people group, when the people scattered they couldn’t understand each other, each people group took a portion or baggage of his religious system wherever they went. It’s an amazing study.
And as you can see, the image to your right is an actual illustration from Hislop’s book depicting two examples of this mother-child cult system. The one on the left is Babylon and the one on the right is India.
And so as each people group, with their new language, separated in each direction they brought along this baggage, this religious system. And then God calls this man, this one man, out of the Chaldeans, Genesis 12:1, from Ur of the Chaldeans. There’s Ur of the Chaldeans, and He called him out. [Genesis 12:1, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;’”] Abraham believes God and walks with God from this journey he realizes that God has a very special calling on his life, namely to be the forbearer of this nation called Israel.
Now why am I saying this? Because we’re talking about two entirely different entities here in regards to the church and Israel. This is a huge distinction that separates the two, the establishment of the church and the establishment of Israel.
This brings us to the third evidence; the third evidence that distinguishes the church from Israel and that’s the mystery character of the church. What is a mystery? The Greek calls this mystery musterion. It’s a divine truth that was hidden and not revealed in the Old Testament (that’s what a mystery is) later to be revealed in the New. What’s an example of a mystery? Can we turn to Colossians 2:2-3; Colossians 2 tells us that the mystery of God is Christ Jesus. In Colossians 2:1-3 Paul is speaking, he says: ‘For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,  that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding,” here it is, “resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
So how is Christ God’s mystery? Was He not God revealed to man? Did Jesus not say those who have seen Me have seen the Father? Did Jesus not equate Himself to God by using the title “I AM,” it got the religious leaders furious. What are these? These are mysteries. Now a review, and why is the church so distinct from Israel? Because of the mystery of the character of the church. There are at least four defining mysteries of the church and let me go through them.
The first one is the indwelling of Christ, the mystery of the indwelling of Christ in every believer. This is the Christ concept in you, or I should say the Christ in you concept. Colossians 1:24-27 reads, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.  Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,  that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints,  to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This “Christ in you” concept is a very technical term Paul uses. He uses it throughout the book of Colossians, he uses “in Him” “buried with Him,” “alive with Him,” “your life is hidden with Him,” “in Him,” “in Christ.” Very technical. He says Christ in all, “Christ is all in all.”
Now how is that a contract? The church according to this verse has an exclusive benefit of God, of having now Christ permanently residing or indwelling in the hearts of believers. This is huge folks! In contrast Israel as a whole, as a entity was never given this benefit. In fact, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, not Christ, in the Old Testament was selective and temporary. The Spirit selectively came upon such Old Testament people like David, Joshua, Saul, and in regard to duration, for example God’s favor left an individual like Saul, the Spirit left him… temporary, the Spirit could depart.
And in regard to the New Testament church all believers are indwelt at the point of faith, permanently indwelt with both the Holy Spirit and Christ. Amen! So much so the book of Ephesians uses a word like “sealed,” guaranteed, indicating the permanency of this indwelling, the “Christ in you” concept.
The second defining mystery of the church is that the New Testament church is called the bride of Christ. This is Paul in Ephesians 5:22 and 23, Paul holds a brief marriage clinic to the Ephesians and he revealed a beautiful truth; He equates the relationship of Christ and His church with that of a married man and a woman. He says in verse 22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” This is a mystery. If you read the rest of the section you will see the beautiful comparison.
If you skip down to verse 31 he says this, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This mystery is great;” and then he says, “but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
You know what? The Bible reveals striking resemblances of the Jewish wedding to that of the church and her relationship with Christ. We call it the Jewish wedding analogy. And as you see in this chart, there’s striking similarities. The marriage covenant in the Jewish wedding was initiated by the groom, starting from the top, and initiated upon payment. Likewise Christian initiates a new covenant which was Christ’s sacrificial death. Didn’t His resurrection and blood ratify this new covenant? Moving down, look at number 2, the bride set apart exclusively to the groom in the Jewish marriage, and the church is positionally sanctified (sanctified means set apart), and it gives you the Scripture references, [1 Cor. 1:2; 6:9-11]) How about number 5, the groom returns at an unknown time to retrieve the bride, that’s an actual ancient Jewish marriage. My, that sounds like the rapture. The rapture is at an unknown time. This is an amazing truth when you compare the two. The Bible calls the church the bride of Christ a mystery.
This is Dr. Cornelius Venema, President and Professor of Mid America Reformed Seminary, also a writer of Ligoner Ministries, you guys are familiar with that ministry, a ministry founded by R. C. Sproul, also a Reformed and Covenant theologian. This is what Venema said in his article Israel and the Church, the Issue. He says, ““In the Reformed view, the gospel of Jesus Christ directly fulfills the promises of the covenant of grace for all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles.” You see the eisegesis in action right there, “covenant of grace,” this is the alleged covenant which God supposedly made with mankind quote “administered to man from the time of the Law to the time of the gospel.” This is verbatim from the Westminster Confession of Faith, Covenant of Grace. He goes on, “Israel and the church are not two distinct peoples; rather, the church is the true Israel of God, ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession”’ He references 1 Peter 2:9).
Is this true? How does the Bible describe Israel and her relationship with God? God says in Jeremiah 3:14, of Israel, “I am married to you.” [Jeremiah 3:14, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you:…” KJV’ In another translation He says “I am your husband.” [“Return, faithless people,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am your husband….” NIV]
So when did God and Israel get married? Dr. Fruchtenbaum, a Jewish scholar, in an excellent article entitled The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Messiah, explains that during the visit on Mt. Sinai God made a covenant with Israel and Fruchtenbaum observed after this covenant the Jewish prophet always viewed this covenant real as the marriage covenant.
[In the Bible, Israel is represented as the “Wife of Jehovah,” whereas the Church is represented as the “Bride of the Christ (Messiah).” A failure to maintain that distinction will only result in a misinterpretation of what the Scriptures teach.
The church can’t be Israel; she’s not married yet. The church is said to be married to her groom in Revelation 19:9, it’s future. [Revelation 19:9, “Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”
And Israel, sadly, is deemed in the Old Testament to be an adulteress, a harlot. And God gave her a writ, or a certificate of divorce in Jeremiah 3:8. [Jeremiah 3:8, “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.”]
Don’t you need to be married to get a divorce? And don’t you have to be married to commit adultery? However, the faithfulness of God and the restored blessings of God were prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah in the form a new covenant, Jeremiah 31:3-34. [Jeremiah 31:31, “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord.  ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”]
In contrast when you study the church you see a radical difference, the bride of Christ is to be presented a pure virgin. 2 Corinthians 11:2 says, “For I am jealous for” Paul is speaking “you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” These are two entirely different entities.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum said this: “In the Bible, Israel is represented as the “Wife of Jehovah,” whereas the Church is represented as the “Bride of the Christ (Messiah).” A failure to maintain that distinction will only result in a misinterpretation of what the Scriptures teach.”
This brings us to our third mystery characteristic of the church, and it’s the mystery of the rapture of the church. Can we turn to 1 Corinthians 15:51-55. Here Paul reveals an unfolds this beautiful mystery called the rapture.
Paul says this, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.  “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” Paul reveals the mystery of the rapture.
I believe Jesus speaks of this same mystery of the rapture in John 14:1-4 And if you recall John 14 takes place in the Upper Room, the Upper Room Discourse and in that discourse we learn that He reveals seed form truths to the disciples. This is what Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”
Some of you are saying to yourself “self,” I don’t see a reference to the rapture here. Notice these phrases of Christ.
If you compare these things, phrases of Christ in this passage, with Paul’s infamous rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 you will see a stunning and exact parallel. You guys can turn there if you will, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”’
Now notice “these words” of Paul and compare them with our Savior’s. You will notice fascinating, conceptual and a sequential parallel. In John 14 Jesus says troubled.
Paul says in 1 Thessalonians grieve, or some translations say sorrow. Jesus says “believe.” Paul says “believe.” Jesus says “God and me.” Paul says “Jesus and God.” Jesus says “I told you.” Paul says “I say to you.” Jesus says “I will come again.” Paul says “coming of the Lord.” Jesus says “I will receive you.” Paul says you will be “caught up.” Jesus said “I will receive you to Myself.” Paul says you will “meet the Lord” and Jesus says “be where I am,” and Paul says “you will always be” or “ever be with the Lord. Amazing; this is a glorious mystery, a truth, it’s revealed. After going through this comparison I don’t know how one can deny the equivalence of these words and concepts of Paul and our Savior unless he has an unaligned motive to minimalize or marginalize or expunge what God has already said, stated in His Word.
So how does this truth of the mystery of the rapture of the church contrast with that of Israel? First of all, Israel is not a mystery, Israel was never hidden in the Old Testament, rather she was in plain view for all to see, in both her glory and her shame. In fact, Israel, the term “Israel” is referenced 2,510 times in the Old Testament and not once does it ever hint of a New Testament church; it always speaks of either the patriarch himself, commonly known as Jacob, or the ethnic national and physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And beyond that Israel in the Bible is assigned a specific program in the end times scenario, is she not?
In Jeremiah 30:7 she is prophesied to expect a time in her life known as Jacob’s distress or Jacob’s trouble, also known as the Tribulation. [Jeremiah 30:7, “Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it.”] The tribulation will be a time where God unleashes His wrath on Israel for the purpose of their chastisement. And the Book of Daniel, a book that we’re currently studying, describes this tribulation, Daniel 12. Daniel 12 is set within the time frame of the tribulation and he says, the tribulation reserved for who? It’s reserved for who? The angel Gabriel says to Daniel it’s for your people, Daniel; it’s for your people. Daniel 9:24 and Daniel 10:24.
Daniel 9:24, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.” And to refrain from stealing Andy’s thunder that’s all I’ll say about that. In contrast what is the end times scenario of the church? It’s not the tribulation because we are the bride of Christ, the spotless bride of Christ we are exempt from this tribulation. Amen! We read, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Paul says, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” And that’s a glorious truth. That’s our hope, beloved, the rapture of the church.
So far we discussed three strong evidences of the distinction of both the church and Israel: the indwelling of Christ, of Christ in you, the second was the bride of Christ, the third was the rapture. And the fourth, defining mystery characteristic of the church as the body of Christ, the mystery of the body of Christ.
Can we turn to Ephesians 3:1-13. This is known as the mystery of the body of Christ. Paul actually reveals and explains in great detail this mystery to the church. He’s speaking to believers, notice verse 1, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—[ 2] if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;  that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,  which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men,” there he says it, mystery of Christ, “as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;  to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Paul is saying here because of the benefits of the gospel believing Jews and Gentiles are now in one body. Because of the gospel Gentiles can now be saved. In the Old Testament, the Old Testament revealed that Gentiles could be saved through faith. He’s saying because of the gospel they’ve become, or are joined together in a new and revolutionary concept called the body, the body of Christ.
And we have to remember when God called out the nation of Israel, through Abraham, God created in the words of Chafer, a race so distinct in their individuality.
And if we back up to Ephesians 2, if you could do so, Ephesians 2:11, we discover Paul details the reason for this Gentile inclusion. Ephesians 2:11-13, “Therefore remember” he says “remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’” notice the two groups, “which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off” notice the “in Christ,” “you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
This is a jam-packed section of Scripture. Allow me to [can’t understand word] unpack this. Notice Paul reminds the Gentiles that they were called uncircumcised. By who? The circumcised. This was what racial profiling looked like in the ancient times. However, who was Paul referring to when he says “circumcised.” The Jews, right? The nation of Israel. Just by using this term “circumcised” what is Paul dialing back to? The Abrahamic Covenant, it was the sign, right? Circumcision.
Paul even clarifies himself in verse 12, “remember that you … excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,” he uses terms like separate, excluded, having no hope, and far off. In other words, they had no relationship to God whatsoever, the Gentiles. Paul describes them “Gentiles in the flesh” denoting a whole class of people.
So if I got this correct according to Paul there is a nation of Israel and the rest of the world, the Gentiles.
And then Christ comes along and because of His work on the cross, specifically His blood, He restores this relationship between God and man.
So now Israel in faith and Gentiles in faith can become one through a very technical term known as “in Christ,” or “the body of Christ.”
Verse 13, But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” So now these two entities, Israel and Gentile, become a new entity. Why is this distinction such a big deal? Why is it such a big deal to Paul? Paul says I’m glad you asked, let’s read on. Paul says remember where you came from because what Christ did for you was something new; Paul reveals a mystery. Notice Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one….” The NASV says “who made from two groups one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,” verse 15, “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,” he says. Let’s stop there.
Let’s see if I got this right. What did Christ make. He made two groups into one, right? Jews and Gentiles, called the body of Christ. So if He made from the two groups one what are we left with? We’re still left with Israel, that’s one group; we’re still left with the Gentiles, that’s another group. Now we have a new man in Christ, made by Christ Himself, which makes a third group. It seems clear, very clear Paul is careful about distinctions here and very careful to identify three groups. Why do I say that? Because as I read Paul’s other letters he acknowledges two groups, namely Israel and the church. He does so in Galatians 2:7, “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.” He also acknowledges two groups in Galatians 6:15, “For neither is circumcision anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” I also say this because if you read the book of Acts Israel is mentioned 20 times and the church is mentioned 19 times. They are both used in a normal and literal sense. And the two entities exist simultaneously. And just for added bonus Paul identifies the Gentiles too, 30 times he does so. And in the book of Acts there’s no such idea as supersessionism.
That said, how is it that theologians, pastors, and professors can say that Israel and the church are not two distinct people. Or say that the church becomes Israel. It’s beyond me.
So far we’ve discussed three strong evidences of the distinction of Israel and the church, which was (1) the church was born at Pentecost, (2) certain events of Christ were essential to the establishment of the church. (3) The mystery character of the church, and we went through four defining mystery characteristics of the church that separate both Israel and the church: The indwelling of Christ, The Bride of Christ, the Rapture, and The Body of Christ.
The fourth and final evidence of the distinction between Israel and the church is Galatians 6:16. We now reach the key text that replacement theologians use to support their argument, that the church has replaced Israel. And if the Lord tarries we’ll continue this point the next time we meet. Establishing distinctions as clearly exampled in the Bible is one of the keys, I believe, to understanding Galatians 6:16 because I believe Paul acknowledge and distinguishes from the rest yet another group. When we meet next time we’ll engage Galatians 6:16 and other passages replacement theologians use.
I thank you for bearing with me through this series, this is truly a robust issue, certainly one that has been around for centuries and certainly one that we should be versed in. And so some of you perhaps are for the first time wondering what in the world is he talking about. Well, I’m ultimately trying to defend the immutable character of God, as if you needed my help.
The story of the Bible is ultimately about how a covenant-keeping God will remain faithful to His chosen people, Israel. He’s made a promise, a covenantal promise to His nation, Israel. And God is not a man that He should lie. In fact, it’s impossible for God to lie. It would not make logical sense to entertain the idea that God can somehow retract His promises. Doesn’t is say His Word does not return unto Him void. If that’s true I can trust Him with my salvation. See that? And if trusting in God that can retract His promises why would I want to do that? It’s quite opposite. I’m trusting in a God who cannot lie, who WILL fulfill His promises, both to the church and to Israel.
He made a promise in John 3:16 granting us everlasting life and if you’re here today and have not trusted in Jesus Christ for you salvation and the safe keeping of your soul don’t hesitate, do it now. You can do this in the quietness of your own heard and mind and be encouraged because God is a promise keeper. Amen. This is what John 3:16 says, this is Jesus speaking, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
are Christ’s words. You notice the one condition there—believe! Just one, believe on Him and all the mysteries we talked about today concerning the church and what not, and they all pertain to you, if you believe. But those are just add-ons, the real gift is eternal life with Christ Jesus, our Lord. And I would encourage you to believe, just believe. And if you’ve done that congratulations, welcome to the family of God. And if you need more information on that I’m available to talk.
Shall we pray. Thank You heavenly Father for Your Word, thank You that Your Word distinguishes entities such as Israel and the church, and thank You Lord that You are a covenant keeping God and that You will fulfill every promise made to Israel. And Lord, we will be careful to give you the praise and the glory. In Jesus’ name we pray, and God’s people said Amen.