Chosen People


Are the Chosen People Still the Jewish People?

by Simon Whitton

The answer to this question depends entirely on the answer to another question:

Does God have unique (independent from the Church) plans for Israel
and the Jewish people in the future?

Christians that answer 'no' have a fundamentally different interpretation of the scriptures and the end times, than those who answer yes. [1]


Replacement Theology


Those that say 'no' believe in some form of 'Replacement Theology', which briefly, is the belief that as Israel rejected Christ, Israel's covenants and promises now belong to the Gentile church. Therefore the church has permanently replaced Israel as God's chosen people.

Replacement theology uses a primarily allegorical - rather than literal - interpretation of scripture, resulting in end times beliefs that are usually post-millennial (but can be a-millennial [2]).

Post-millennialists typically believe:

  • The great falling away (apostasy), [3] the great tribulation (suffering), [4] and the Antichrist, are all historical events that largely took place in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed.
  • We are living in the 1000 year reign of Christ [5] right now (Post-millennialists don't usually believe it's a literal 1000 years).
  • The church will be triumphant taking dominion over the earth, and then Christ will return at the end of (post) the millennium.

Adherents to Replacement theology believe that the Jews are no longer 'chosen', and at best, God sees them as no different to any other people, at worst, God has rejected and even cursed them. The same goes for the nation of Israel, where adherents often see its reemergence in 1948 as an affront to Palestinians as they believe the Jews have no biblical right to a 'Holy Land', as seen in this excerpt from an open letter signed by 100 Evangelical pastors et al:

At the heart of the political commitments in question are two fatally flawed propositions. First, some are teaching that God's alleged favor toward Israel today is based upon ethnic descent rather than upon the grace of Christ alone, as proclaimed in the Gospel. Second, others are teaching that the Bible's promises concerning the land are fulfilled in a special political region or "Holy Land," perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone. As a result of these false claims, large segments of the evangelical community, our fellow citizens, and our government are being misled with regard to the Bible's teachings regarding the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel. [6]


Remnant Theology


Those that answer'yes, God does have unique future plans for Israel' believe in some sort of 'Remnant Theology', where not only was the church established by a believing remnant of Jews, but God has and will maintain a believing remnant of Jews through the ages. Gentiles are grafted into Israel's promises and covenants (in Christ) until the full number of the Gentiles has come in; and then all Israel will be saved. [7] Therefore, they believe that the Jews are still God's chosen people but are temporarily held back or disadvantaged for the sake of the Gentiles, but in the future Israel will accept Christ wholesale.

Remnant theology uses a primarily literal interpretation of scripture, resulting in end time beliefs that are pre-millennial.

Pre-millennialists typically believe:

  • Wickedness will increase as the end times approach.
  • The judgments of God will come upon the earth as the seals of Revelation begin to be opened. Like birth pangs, they will increase in intensity and frequency.
  • The suffering of Christians will increase, many will fall away.
  • The rapture of the church (removal of the Gentile church from the world) just prior to the great tribulation, which lasts 7 years, during which Israel will once again be God's primary representative on earth. [8]
  • The Antichrist will come to power.
  • Christ returns at the end of the tribulation and binds the Antichrist for 1000 years, during which time Christ reigns from Jerusalem. Therefore, Christ returns before (pre) the millennium.

Adherents to Remnant theology believe that the Jews are still God's chosen people and He views them differently as they have unique covenants, promises and prophecies that are still in effect or have yet to be fulfilled. Not the least of which is God's plans for the nation of Israel in the end times. But perhaps the deepest conviction of adherents to Remnant theology is God's special love for the Jewish people, as alluded to by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem:

We as Christians must comfort Israel (Isaiah 40:1), bless her (Genesis 12:3), pray for her (Psalm 122:6) and encourage her with God's precious eternal Word. We do not do this for our own blessing because God promises to bless those who bless her, and to prosper those who love her. Nor do we bless her because we believe her existence is to bring about some prophesied event. No, we stand with her and for her simply because if God is with her, so are we. [9]


The Argument for Remnant Theology


There can only be one truth, God either still has unique plans for the Jewish people or He doesn't. Although I would encourage a thorough research of both points of view, I would like to put forward a case where the Jews are still uniquely chosen by God, and He does have plans for the nation of Israel.

1. Romans Chapter 11

If you read nothing else on this subject, I encourage you to read the whole of Romans chapter 11. The chapter starts with this question and answer:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!
Romans 11:1a NIV


In the rest of the chapter, the Apostle Paul elaborates on his answer. Here's a section of the chapter where he tells us about the temporary nature of Israel's hardness towards God:

24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs,
29 for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience,
31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.
Romans 11:24-31 NIV


The Apostle Paul also tells us that Israel will be a great blessing to the world once they fully return to God.

But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
Romans 11:12 NIV



2. Israel became a nation again in 1948, just as was prophesied!

This was not only a miracle it was the greatest prophetic Biblical fulfillment since the 1st century. A people lose their country and are scattered around the world for almost 2000 years, and then somehow reestablish that nation. In the history of the world is there another example of this occurring? Surely it was the hand of God. They even have plans to rebuild the temple.

He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.
Isaiah 11:12 NIV


35 They will say, "This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited."
36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.'
Ezekiel 36:35-36 NIV


(See also: Jeremiah 16:14-15; Ezekiel 36:1-38, 37:1-14;)


3. God keeps His promises

God made many unconditional promises to the Jews. Here are just two of them:

35 This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD Almighty is his name:
36 "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me."
37 This is what the LORD says: "Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done," declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 31:35-37 NIV


7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 "To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit."
Psalms 105:7-11 NIV


God has kept His promises to sustain the Jews as a distinct people and to give them the land of Canaan. Our God is a God who keeps His promises to His people.


4. Israel's 490 years and the 70th week

The Angel Gabriel told Daniel that the Jewish people had 490 years to atone for wickedness and accomplish God's will. But says the Anointed One (Messiah) will be cut off after 483 years, and the temple will be destroyed. This ends their sacrificial ability to atone for sin.

Therefore, according to this prophecy, only 483 of the 490 years promised to Israel have been fulfilled, and there must still be a future 7 year period where Israel can accomplish God's will.

Gabriel goes on to talk about the final seven years as a period when the temple is rebuilt, and the abomination that causes desolation (Antichrist) puts an end to sacrifice halfway through those seven years.

24 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
Daniel 9:24-27 NIV


Many Christians believe the seven year period is the seven year tribulation that takes place immediately after the church is removed from the world (raptured), returning the responsibility of representing God to Israel.

This 7 year tribulation is also described in Matthew 24 and Revelation 11&12.


5. Throughout history, replacement theology has led to the persecution of Jews

The church has a history of anti-Semitism which is rooted in replacement theology, and this has even influenced states like Germany as explained by Holocaust theologian Dr. Barry Leventhal:

"One of the major sources to the rise of Nazism in Germany came from within the Church. It was the growing interest in the evolutionary and destructive higher criticism of the Bible in Germany that fueled the anti-semitic Nazi war machine." [And also the fact that] Germany had a long history of 'Christian' anti-Semitism, not only from within the Roman Catholic Church, but even from within the Protestant Church. It was Martin Luther, who in his latter years turned upon the Jews with a religious fury, thus paving the way for Adolph Hitler to consummate the Reformer's great desire for the elimination of the Jewish people. It is any wonder that Hitler cited Martin Luther in Mein Kampf as one of the great heroes of the German people." [10]

Alternatively, remnant theology has caused Christians to have an appreciation of the Hebrew roots of the faith which has resulted in greater understanding of scripture, and a love and respect for the Jews and Israel, which is more in line with the gospel of peace.


6. The book of Revelation is about the end times not the destruction of the temple and the State of Israel in AD 70

Replacement theology usually demands a post-millennial interpretation of scripture,[11] which requires that almost all the events of the book of Revelation took place in AD 70 (preterism).

There are numerous scriptural and logical problems with this, here's just two of them:

A. Replacement theology attempts to fit the terrible judgments of God - the seals, trumpets and bowls - into the limited scope of the Roman siege of Jerusalem. But even a highly allegorical and creative interpretation of Revelation struggles to answer many questions like:
  • How and when was the 'mark of the Beast' enforced? (Revelation 13:16-17)
  • When did the Euphrates dry up? (Revelation 16:12)
  • When was the greatest earthquake man ever experienced? (Revelation 16:18)

B. The Book of Revelation would have to have been written before AD 70 or it wasn't prophetic, as it claims to be (Rev. 1:3).

Most scholars date the book of Revelation circa AD 95. [12]


7. Do not take the place of honour

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:

"When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.
Luke 14:7-8


As Gentile Christians we are a chosen people, adopted children of the King, but we should in humility consider others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3), as we are grafted into a Jewish tree, a race of people whose roots go back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and should consider them even more distinguished.


Conclusion

The nation of Israel is a miraculous sign that the end times are drawing near. God resurrected her for a great purpose, and she will be used to bless the world. Israel is imperfect, but knowing that God is with her, we should support and love Israel in any moral way we can, just as all patriots support and love their own nations without agreeing with every political decision and action.

God has not rejected the Jews, they are still the chosen people of God. Love them, honour them and introduce them to their Jewish Messiah, not to remove them from their roots, but to affirm their history and true calling. And all the more as you see the Day approaching.


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Endnotes

[1] As long as their theology is relatively mainstream, as many people are inconsistent - or confused - about these issues and hold individual views pulled from different theological camps.

[2] A-millennialists typically believe:
  • There's no specific period of global blessing and peace
      (or the 1000 year reign of Christ is symbolic of the current New Testament period)

  • Good and evil gradually increase until the Second Coming

  • When Christ comes, all men are raised and judged

[3] The great falling away:

2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 KJVA

&
7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,
11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:7-14 NIV


[4] The great tribulation:

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Matthew 24:21-22 KJVA
&
14 I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 7:14 NIV


[5] 1,000 year reign of Christ:

2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:2-6 NIV


[6] An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel; Initiated by Knox Theological Seminary; Signed by over 100 Evangelical pastors, educators, and others

http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/wdoor.html#add

[7] Once the full number of Gentiles are saved, all Israel will be saved:

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
Romans 11:25-26 NIV


[8] The pre-tribulation rapture of the church:

Most but not all pre-millennialists believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, which holds that the rapture of the church will take place just before the tribulation begins.

[9] Susan M. Michael, US Director, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

http://www.icejusa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_why_we_support_israel

[10] Dr. Barry Leventhal, pg.4, Theological Perspectives of the Holocaust, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1982

[11] Replacement theology and post-millennialism:

Postmillennialism confuses Israel and the church. The postmillennial view requires the church to take over the fulfillment of promises made to national Israel so that they may posit a present kingdom. Modern postmillennialism needs to posit replacement theology or supersessionism as a key plank in its theology. Thus, it denies that the modern state of Israel could have any place in God' s future prophetic plan.

What is Postmillennialism, Thomas Ice, Aug 2010

http://www.raptureready.com/featured/ice/WhatisPostmillennialism.html

[12] Most scholars date the book of revelation circa AD 95:

pg.426, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Gordon D Fee, Zondervan, 2002-stand-firm

pg.1923, The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Pub, 1985



Bibliography

The Road to Holocaust, Hal Lindsey, Bantam Books, 1989

The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Pub, 1985

The Restoration Movement, Tricia Booth, Birthpangs, Accessed Aug 2010
http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/restoration/restore1.html

Israel and the Church –Understanding some Theological Options, John J Parsons, Aug 2010
http://www.hebrew4christians.net/Articles/Israel/israel.html

ReplacementTheology-ItsOrigins, Teachings and Errors, Dr.Gary Hedrick, Aug 2010
http://www.shema.com/Combating%20Replacement%20Theology/crt-004-presence.php

The Error of Replacement Theology, Clarence H Wagner Jr. Aug 2010
http://ldolphin.org/replacement/

What is Postmillennialism, Thomas Ice, Aug 2010
http://www.raptureready.com/featured/ice/WhatisPostmillennialism.html

How NOT to interpret the Bible, Tricia Booth, Birthpangs, Aug 2010
http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/deception/hownot-allegory.html

You Know You're A Preterist If:, B.J.Max, Aug 2010
http://cuf5.tripod.com/id146.html