Pastor Bo: Israel and the church

It was my recent column on Hamas and the savage attacks on Israel that led to some of my favorite cranky crackpots sending me yet another anonymous yet entertaining hate letter. It was mostly a regurgitation of age-old anti-Semitic propaganda under the guise of Christianity. And I phrase it that way because real Christianity and an accurate understanding of Scripture leaves no room for anti-Semitism in one's theology.

As I suspected would be the case, Bubba Clyde and Mary June (my pet names for them) base their entire anti-Semitic worldview on the aberrant belief commonly referred to as replacement theology. This is the view that Israel has been forever set aside, and the church has taken both her place and all of her promises. And when one holds that view, they then have all the justification they need for their Jew-hating ways, a pretty bow with which to decorate their pile of theological poop. All through the Scripture, though, we find that the church and Israel are two distinct entities with specific promises to both. Showing that clear distinction, 1 Corinthians 10:32 says, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God."

As far back as the time of the Exodus, God was using a lot of "forevers" concerning himself and Israel. For instance, Exodus 31:16-17 "Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and Earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."

"Forever" does not exactly have a stopping point, nor does "perpetual." And this is yet another distinction between the church and Israel. The Sabbath, Saturday, was given to Israel as the day of rest and worship, while the church, from its early days, met on the Lord's Day, Sunday, commemorating the resurrection of Christ. We see Paul referencing this first day of the week, Sunday, assembly in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, and we see John observing it on the Isle of Patmos in Revelation 1:10.

Paul, himself, knew the subject well from both sides. He was very clearly Jewish to the core:

› Philippians 3:5-6: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

He was also, more importantly to him, Christian to the core:

› Philippians 3:7-8: But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.

This Paul, the most devout follower of Christ who ever lived, had a lot to say about his people, the Jews. Here is just a sampling:

› Romans 11:1-2: I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.

› Romans 11:25-29: For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Jesus said the same thing Paul said in different words, pointing to their temporary fall and ultimate restoration:

› Matthew 23:37-39: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

The great bulk of the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ shows the Jews back in their land, undergoing harsh persecution and being protected by God himself through it all. Many Old Testament passages speak of their coming future temple in that very same land. Mind you, both Jew and Gentile have been found to be under sin and in need of salvation (Romans 3:9). And Peter, another Jew, made it very clear that only in the name of Christ will salvation be found for any of us (Acts 4:10-12).

As for Israel, though, if you want to know how long she will be a nation, just look overhead on a dark, cloudless night. Jeremiah 31:35-36 says, "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances [the moon and stars] depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever."

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhis Email him at