A long, long time ago, for a brief moment, the church and Israel were the same people. Oh, not everyone in Israel belonged to the church. But everyone in the church belonged to Israel. Nobody was named O’Malley.
Then one day God encouraged the apostle Peter to go to the home of a Roman centurion named Cornelius and share the gospel. And, lo and behold, the man’s whole family believed and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Things were never the same after that.
Paul then followed Peter’s example and made a career out of bringing Gentiles into the church. Soon the only Jew left in the church was Jesus. And even he was looking more Gentile-ish every day.
In time, the church came under new management. It was now all Gentile, and had become a religion called Christianity. The new leaders soon determined God had clearly changed His mind about the Jews being His favorite people. Their glorious city and temple lay in ruins, and the people were scattered in disgrace.
But the church of Jesus Christ was flourishing. Even the Emperor of Rome, Constantine, was now on board. And he had promoted Christianity to be God’s number one religion, officially severing it from the religion of “the murderers of our Lord.”
Yep, the church was surely God’s new Israel! It was a new day. The Bible was then put under lock and key for safe keeping. Churches were built. New holy days proclaimed. And a priesthood with powerful sacerdotal authority evolved. But as night follows day, a deep, deep darkness descended on the land that lasted for centuries.
But God, who is light, sent His servants to reignite the torches. The Bible was given back to the people in their own languages. Scales began to fall from blinded eyes. Faith arose to overcome religion. And then, miracle of miracles, the Jews defied history and returned to their ancient homeland to reestablish their nation. Many in the church marveled, realizing God must still love the Jews after all. And was again honoring His covenant promises to them.
But that raised big questions. For if the Jews were still God’s people, and the church had not replaced them as previously taught, who or what was the church ? The theologians quickly latched on to another teaching that seemed to solve the problem. God had two peoples! Christians and Jews. A spiritual Israel and a physical Israel.
And that’s sort of where we are today.
But is that what God wants? To have two separate peoples? What happened to Jesus’ prayer to the Father, “that they may all be one?” (John 17:21). Or his assurance we will “become one flock with one shepherd?” (John 10:16) Or Paul’s revelation, that in Messiah, God had “made both groups (Jews and Gentiles)… into one new man, thus establishing peace?” (Eph. 2:13-15)
Seems to me we’re not quite there yet. And a glorious reunion lies ahead.