If someone started watching the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, in the middle of the film, would they ever figure out the point of the story? Or appreciate the challenges Jimmy Stewart had to overcome? I doubt it. They would learn how the story ended, but remain largely ignorant of what was truly accomplished.
Well, that is what happens when Christians focus exclusively on the New Testament, believing the Old Testament is a completely different story unrelated to following Christ. As a result, we fail to see that the story of the “church,” God’s ecclesia, didn’t start in Matthew 1–but in Genesis 12. Or that the unifying theme of the Bible is found in the fulfillment of a promise made to an old man with a barren wife who believed God “he would be heir of the world” (Rom. 4:14).
Is it any wonder so many Christians say today, “I just don’t get Israel?”
Not only are many Christians unaware of the unfolding story of Israel, but we have failed to see how we ourselves are included. So few realize their faith in Yeshua has actually brought them into those covenant promises made exclusively to Abraham. And not into a new religion with different promises. “For if you belong to Messiah, you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29).
I have often said, for most Christians Jesus could have been born and died in Toledo, Ohio and it wouldn’t affect their understanding of the gospel one iota. We have been so focused on the theological benefits of our blood-bought salvation we’ve missed the importance of Yeshua’s historical context as a Jew in the land of Israel. We have not studied the still unfulfilled prophecies concerning his kingdom. Or seen that the NT is but the continuing story of Israel’s elect moving forward from the types and shadows of the Old Covenant into the blessings and realities of a New Covenant.
On the other hand, Jews have the opposite problem. Having rejected the testimony of the NT they only read the first half of the Book and never learn how God is fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the fathers to save Israel through Yeshua, His Messiah. They never read the amazing words spoken by the angel Gabriel to the young Jewish girl, Miriam, that she would give birth to God’s savior. And that this child, who would miraculously form in her womb, “will be called the son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:32,33).
We could excuse the Jews who have been temporarily blinded by God from believing those words. But what about Christians who hear them read each year at Christmas, only to have them go in one ear and out the other? Why? Because Replacement Theology has rendered them incomprehensible. How can Jesus, who they see as the founder of their religion, occupy “the throne of his father David” in Jerusalem and “reign over the house of Jacob?”
My heart breaks when I hear Christians talk about the Church and Israel as being two separate peoples with no common destiny. Does God have two Messiahs? One for the Church and one for the Jews? Does God have two olive trees? Two temples? Hasn’t God promised to show Jews the same mercy He showed us? And to do so precisely “because of the mercy shown to you?” (Rom. 11:30)
Today, Christians and Jews are reaching out to each other in ways not seen since the first century.As believers we are commanded to put aside our historic animosities and prejudices and stand with them in their struggle for survival, looking forward to the day when we can “…with one accord with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6).
In other words, it’s time for us to step into the story.
Brian Hennessy is the author of Valley of the Steeples, available at: ketchpublishing/BrianHennessyBooks.htm