Joust between an Israeli Messianic Jew and a Replacement Theologian

Artwork by Elhanan ben-Avraham

Messianic Jew: So, help me in my perplexity to understand: in your worldview through the Bible, now the Jews are no longer Israel as they are referred to countless times in the Bible, but Gentile Christians are now Israel, and that because God is not quite up to handling so many different peoples at the same time, but only people inside a Church?  Have I got that straight?

Replacement Theologian: No; it’s that in Christ, everyone, Jew or Gentile are God’s covenant people. No ethnic or nationality is automatically God’s people but only those in Jesus. What’s so hard about that to understand.

MJ: No, it is not so simple. And nowhere is “the church” called Israel (other than being grafted into the commonwealth of Israel). Israel in the New Testament is differentiated from the Gentile believers, to whom Paul addressed most of his writings. God, having immaculate foresight, knew that Saul, though “outside” of Christ, was a Jew who would come to be in Christ- so Paul could write, “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.  But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!”

RT: Fine, and in the future when the Jews do they will be part of his new covenant people, but until then, no. Paul also said “who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.”

The covenant people?

MJ: You now sound like a classic anti-Semite. To be honest with the text, that passage speaks only of the persecuting Judaean leadership in Jerusalem, which was in the hands of the Sadducees who held that there is no resurrection etc. It does not speak of the Jewish people as a whole, for Paul, Jesus, Mary, John, Peter are all JEWS. This is an example why I more and more disdain iron-clad and calcified, sunk-in-concrete Religion – that looks into an ink blot and comes up with what it wants to see – all facts notwithstanding.

RT: So one day all Israel is going to accept Jesus? So Paul, so long ago, was talking about secular Zionism and that one day they are all going to be saved? Is that what this text means?  My interpretation is built on sound hermeneutical principles, not one which says some of God’s people believe in Jesus and some of God’s people utterly reject Jesus, won’t even say his name.

MJ: In your very narrow theological worldview I suppose that can be true. But other smart theologians with very firm hermeneutical principles find the very opposite to be true. It seems to me that you are very married to the words of the Bible, even moreso than to the Creator Himself, who is beyond our mere thoughts and words, and sees things in the future as if they already are, and those to whom He has made promises will indeed praise Jesus, just as Paul (a parable of the Jewish people) cursed his name, and then became his apostle. God told us in Ezekiel 36 that He would do this not for our sakes, but for His name’s sake. Also, all those Jews coming up from Egypt, and those returning from Babylon, were Zionists too.

RT: I’m just saying salvation is a one-to-one thing, a person and Jesus, regardless of ethnicity. You know “there is neither Jew nor Greek.”

MJ: Women are still women, and Jews are still Jews and Gentiles are Gentiles, each with their own calling and commandments- but now all have the same access to the Father through the Messiah.

RT: You quoted me a verse about “all Israel shall be saved” So, I ask, all the Jews in Israel (not the Arab Israelis, of course) are going to be saved—en mass? God deals with individual salvation, not with ethnic groups or nations.

MJ: Yes, this prophecy from Zechariah 12 seems to answer your question: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each tribe by itself, with their wives by themselves: the tribe of the house of David and their wives, the tribe of the house of Nathan and their wives, the tribe of the house of Levi and their wives, the tribe of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the tribes and their wives. On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity…declares the Lord Almighty.”

RT: So only the Jews in Israel will be saved; the Arab Israelis won’t even though they too reject Jesus, though they are less hostile to Jesus than, say the Orthodox Jews, right? So in the end, all the Jews, but only living in the area of Israel, which is not the same area that they once lived in , they are going to be saved but diaspora Jews won’t. In other words, the Jews who accept Jesus are going to have to live in Israel to be part of this last day teshuvah, right? Though tough luck for the Jews in the rest of the world.

MJ: No, the text says, “and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” which I would think would include all, just as it did at the first Shavuot outpouring of the Holy Spirit here in Jerusalem, which also included non-Jews. I only quote what the text says, but those elsewhere may be included in, ”Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. Every tribe on earth will mourn because of him.”

RT: Well, then, I’m waiting for the day when the Haredi and the Far Left for Peace proclaim Yeshua as the Messiah. Would love it.

MJ: And may they together sing to him, ”Blessed is who comes in the name of YHVH”!  Well, I responded and answered each of your questions, including the fact that God actually does deal with large groups of people, such as at Pentecost, and the passage cited in Zechariah 12 of the pouring out of the Spirit upon the House of David and the Tribes of Israel and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And there will also be the 144,000 of the tribes of Israel who will stand for Yeshua, not to mention the corporate covenant at Sinai spoken to perhaps millions of people at once. Does that not speak to you?

RT: I guess not. Israel in prophecy? I don’t understand how God can have two covenant people, with one rejecting the One who sealed the covenant with His blood, and one who accepts it. Or how their returning to the land but not having made a corporate covenant with God, as at Sinai, does seem like more than a little detail.

MJ: I am so very happy that God is the righteous Judge, not dependent on your Christian Theological interpretations, but a just and wise Judge knowing all and capable of truth in judgement, as you are not, for in your little Court of Judgement all the Jewish people would be banned therefore to Hell?

RT: I am not sitting in the court of judgment on anyone.

MJ: As to theology and its conjectures and speculations, to be ironclad certain of what is completely invisible and unprovable is very easy, but to not see what is happening before your very eyes really takes a special kind of religious blindness. I apologize, I didn’t mean to confuse you with facts. But also “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way  all Israel (the Jews) will be saved” and, “Regarding the gospel, they (the Jews) are enemies for your (the Gentiles) sakes; but regarding election, they are loved on account of the patriarchs.” Nevertheless, may God bless you and your family with all goodness. Or, as Tiny Tim said at the end of Dickens’ wonderful A Christmas Carol, “God bless us every one”!

MJ & RT: Amen.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.