Is The Church A Substitute For Israel?
There is a widespread belief among Christians that Israel, the
nation which God brought into being to be the instrument of His Purpose, has
been replaced by the Christian Church. It is true that, as a result of disobedience
and sin, the Israel nation fell and that her people were carried away into
exile from which only a remnant returned (Ezra 3:8; 9:8; Neh. 1:3). It is also
true that the few who did return, called Jews, refused to accept the Son of
God and were consequently set aside by Him as the instrument of His Purpose
(Matt. 21:43; Jn. 1:11-12).
So with Israel “lost” (Jer. 50:6; Matt. 5:10; 15:24) and with the
Jews’ rejection, it has appeared to some that God’s Plan of using Israel as the
instrument of His Purpose has failed. Therefore they assume that He must have
substituted the Christian Church for the people of Israel.
However, before we charge God with having made a mistake, or say
that He has had to change His mind and substitute a church for a nation, let
us consider for a moment that purpose for which Israel was chosen.
When read as a whole, the Bible shows very clearly that God brought
the Israel people into being and formed them into a nation to demonstrate the
righteousness of His Kingdom—that perfect social order and government which He
designed for mankind; to show the benefits of obedience to His moral laws in
ALL things, religious, political, social and economic; and to extend His Kingdom
and the administration of His precepts throughout the earth.
A moment’s thought will show that this Purpose can never be accomplished
by the Christian Church. The Church could not function as a social order or even
as a government. Neither could it demonstrate the righteousness of God’s kingdom,
for it has no means of administering or enforcing His laws. Yet without doing
so, how can it replace Israel in the fulfillment of God’s Plan?
To quibble by saying that God has changed His Plan is to contradict
His own Words, for the Bible quotes Him as saying, “I am the Lord, I change not.”
The folly of presuming that God’s plans have failed and that substitutes
are in order is shown in the Bible story of Abraham and his wife Sarah. When
Sarah passed the normal age of child-bearing without giving birth to the son
whom God had promised them, they lost faith and their attempt to provide a substitute
ended in tragic failure.
So also in this matter, we dare not attempt to substitute a Church
for the Divinely-ordained nation. Each serves its own purpose in God’s Plan.
The function of the Christian Church is to proclaim Christ and the gospel of
salvation to all people, whereas Israel was chosen to demonstrate the righteousness
of God’s kingdom and laws on a national basis and to extend and administer them
throughout the earth. Thus each has its part to play in God’s Great Purpose and
only evil can come of any attempt to substitute one for the other.
When Abraham and Sarah could see no possibility of having the son
whom God had promised, they ignored the promise and tried a substitute. Likewise
many Christians can see no possibility of Israel fulfilling the Abrahamic covenants,
so they ignore God’s promise and try to substitute the Church. Even as the other
attempt ended in tragedy, so also will this, for, “God is not a man that he should
lie; neither the son of Man that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he
not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num. 23:19)
Repeatedly and in the most emphatic terms God has promised that as
long as the heavens and the earth remain, and as long as we continue to have
day and night, Israel will continue as the instrument of His Purpose (Jer. 31:31-37).
The heavens and the earth are still with us and we are still having day and night.
Therefore Israel will fulfill her Divinely-appointed commission, and the claim
that she has been replaced by the Church is false. For more information, see
our "Introduction To The British-Israel Evangel"
Our Movement And Its Mission:
This website is sponsored by the Canadian British-Israel Association, an organization
composed of Bible-believing Christians of many denominations who believe that
the moral decline in our nation can only be reversed by a knowledge of our
duties and responsibilities as God's Servant People. This will lead
to a return to faith in Christ and obedience to the Divine precepts outlined
in the Word of God. For more information about us, see our websites
listed on the links page...
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Introduction: The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel
The Bible clearly states that God’s Purpose for mankind is to be achieved
through the instrumentality of a servant nation called Israel (Isa. 49:3).
Nevertheless, Israel of old proved unfaithful, was exiled from Canaan and disappeared
from the pages of history about 600 B.C. (2 Ki. 17), except for a small remnant
called Jews. As a result, many Christians assume that Israel no longer figures
in God’s Plan, and that the Divine Purpose is now to be fulfilled through the
Yet this assumption ignores God’s solemn promises recorded in the
Old Testament, many of them made long after Israel disappeared. In addition,
it overlooks the significance of many of our Lords’s own statements. Thus, in
rebuking the woman of Canaan for asking His help in terms which falsely implied
that she was an Israelite, He said: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep
of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24)
This carries us back to the 34th chapter of Ezekiel where the prophet,
writing after Israel’s disappearance, likens them to a flock of sheep whose false
shepherds (political and religious leaders) have allowed them to become scattered
and lost. Here, too, he records God’s promise that He Himself would come to seek
and restore these lost sheep.
Obviously then, our Lord’s statement that He was “not sent but unto
the lost sheep of the house of Israel” not only proves that the Israel people
were still in existence in His day but further that He had come to restore them
to God’s favor and function. The prophecies clearly show that it is through Israel
that God’s Purposes will be accomplished.
Yet to say that He was referring to the Jews of Palestine is illogical,
for the Jews were not lost, they were all about Him. Further, they were not of
the House of Israel but of the House of Judah. Originally Israel had consisted
of twelve families or tribes, but following the death of King Solomon ten tribes
rebelled against the rule of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, with the result that the
Israel people were split into TWO separate and distinct nations, the House and
Kingdom of ISRAEL (10 tribes), and the House and Kingdom of JUDAH (2 tribes).
This story is found in First Kings chapter 12.
Eventually both of these nations were conquered by enemies who carried
their people away into captivity in distant lands, from which only a small remnant
of the House of Judah returned (Ezra 3:8; 9:8; Neh. 1:3). It is from this remnant
of Judah that the Jews of our Lord’s day were descended. This returned remnant
of Judah was neither lost nor descended from the House of Israel, and could not
therefore have been the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” to which He referred.
It is important to understand that the generic term, “Israel,” or
“Israelite,” referred to any or all of the twelve tribes; however, the explicit
term, “House of Israel,” specifically referred to the separate kingdom of the
Ten Tribes. With that being clear, let us now look at our Saviour’s command to
His disciples when sending them forth to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom:
“Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter
ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go,
preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 10:5-7)
Here again we have proof that the Israel people were still in existence
in our Lord’s day, for surely He would not have sent His disciples to a people
who no longer existed. Further, His Words clearly show that the ten-tribe “House
of Israel” still had a vital part to play in the fulfillment of God’s Purpose.
These twelve disciples were not sent to the House of Israel to proclaim that
the kingdom of God could not be restored to them!
Christ was pointedly reminding them that the responsibility for demonstrating
and extending the righteousness of that kingdom was theirs, and called upon them
to accept it. The fact that we still await the second coming of Christ to physically
take that ideal kingdom does not prove that Israel is non-existent but only that
by following false shepherds she has failed to heed and implement the call.
Thus those Christians who say that Israel no longer exists and that
God’s Purpose for mankind is to be fulfilled through the Christian Church, or
through unbelieving Jewry, not only deny their Lord’s own words but hinder the
coming of the kingdom.
Did God Cast Off His People Israel?
“God has not repudiated his People, his predestined People!" (Romans 11:2, Moffatt)
Did God Cast Off His People? Many people today have been led to believe that the Old Testament, along with its central story of God's servant nation Israel, has been completely replaced by Christ and the New Testament. They reason that because the New Testament emphasizes the place and work of the Church, God gave up the idea of working out His Purpose for mankind through a chosen people; that he cast them away and has replaced them with a Spiritual people only, the Christian denominations of the world.
Apparently St. Paul found this idea prevalent in his day among the Christians in Rome for he writes at some length to warn them against such an assumption. Note the question and his emphatic reply: "Then, I ask, has God repudiated his People? Never! Why, I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin! God has not repudiated his People, his predestined People!" (Romans 11:1-2, Moffatt)
The Apostle then warns these Gentile Christians against becoming conceited and boasting that they have replaced Israel for, he says, though the Israel people were sent away in exile, they are to be restored when they turn from their unbelief. he likens this unbelief to a blindness that has come upon them: "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 fulness 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." (Romans 11:25-26, KJV)
This whole chapter is an explanation of the true place of Gentile Christians in relation to Israel, and in it St. Paul states most emphatically that God has not cast Israel away. True, because of unbelief, they became blind to their identity and responsibility, and were sentenced to a long term of exile and correction, but this blindness is only temporary and when it is removed Israel will be restored to her place as the instrument of God's Purpose among men.
That God had not cast Israel away is evident from the statement made by our Lord Himself to the woman of Canaan: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel." (Matthew 15:24) In connection with this statement we should also note the directions He gave to His disciples concerning the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom: "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 10:5-7)
If Israel had ceased to be, if God had cast off the people He had chosen, if Jesus came to organize a Church as a substitute for Israel, then why did He say that He was sent to Israel and why did He send His disciples to Israel and to Israel only, with the good news of His Kingdom?
He could not have been referring to the Jews for they were not lost, and in addition they were of the House of Judah, not of the House of Israel. In themselves, therefore, these two statements are proof that the Israel people were still in existence in our Lord's day and still had a part to play in the working out of His Great Purpose.
Further, we should not overlook our Lord's statement to the Jews when they refused to meet the conditions necessary for the setting up of His Kingdom among them: "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." (Matthew 21:43) From this we see that our Lord's Kingdom is to be set up in a nation not a Church; and, once this is recognized it becomes evident that this nation is "the lost sheep of the House of Israel" to whom He had sent the Gospel (good news) of the Kingdom.
Finally, there is the promise to Mary concerning Jesus: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:32-33)
Here we have absolute proof that Israel and the Throne of David were still in existence in our Lord's day, and that they are yet to form the physical basis of His Kingdom.
Is it true, then, that God cast off His people Israel and that they have no further part in the working out of His Will and Purpose among men?
"No!" says St. Paul: "God hath not cast away His people."
British-Israel in Brief: What It Is and What It Is Not!
No, we do not believe that only the British are Israel! The name, "British-Israel" was adopted as a play on the Hebrew word for "covenant," which is written in English as "b'rith." Whether it is perfect modern Hebrew or not, the name distinctly points up the fact that elements of exiled ancient Israel did indeed migrate westward into Europe as far as Britain and beyond; in fact, the Abrahamic Covenant foretold, "And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south..." (Genesis 28:14) How ironic that our critics deny any westward migration for lost exiled Israel, while the Abrahamic Covenant lists "west" first in the prophecy! Increase your understanding of God's great plan for Israel with the studies on this website, as well as items on our Resources Page...