There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
in this series:
There's no question whether or not the Nation of Israel will play a unique role in End Times events. One only need look in her direction to see that she's a major focus in politics, war, and religion. The question many have is whether or not God has seperate plans for the people of Israel as opposed to the people of Christ. This distinction, or lack thereof, is critical in forming the various interpretations of Eschatological Scripture, that is, the parts of The Bible relating to The Last Days and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is made very clear in the book of Revelation that there will be believers still on the Earth throughout the Great Tribulation. These are believers in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. These believers are referred to as servants of our God (Revelation 7:3), saints (Revelation 13:7, Revelation 13:10, Revelation 14:12), the remnant (Revelation 12:17), and overcomers (Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 21:7), yet for some reason in the Pre-trib view these faithful have missed the rapture and were "left behind" to endure the worst time ever experienced on Earth. How could that be?
In order to satisfy the view of a Pre-Tribulation rapture it is necessary to seperate Israel and the Church (and therefore Jews and Christians) regardless of a common belief in Christ. But wait you say, Jews don't believe in Jesus as their Messiah do they? Historically no, but that is beginning to change. Groups such as Jews for Jesus , who are known as "Messianic Jews", have Jewish roots but see the truth of their Messiah in Jesus Christ. Obviously this isn't entirely new, the first Christians were Jews, as was Jesus Himself. What is notable now is that it is quickly becoming a widespread movement.
On the other end of the spectrum are groups like Outreach Israel Ministries  who are Christians that acknowledge their Hebraic roots. These folks are not saying "hey we all pray to the same God" or "c'mon we're all decendants of Abraham." The message here is that we are all united through faith in Christ Jesus. That reason alone is what gives this movement some weight and compels me to dig deeper.
A Brief Biblical History of Israel
Before I continue it is necessary to offer a quick history lesson on Israel and the Jews straight from the pages of Scripture. First we will look at Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and son of Isaac, all who are attributed to God's covenant (Exodus 2:24-25). We will start in Genesis 32 where Jacob is renamed to Israel:
- And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
- And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
- And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
- And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
- And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
- And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
- And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Proof comes from Isaiah 12:4 that the man Jacob wrestled with was really an angel. It is stunning to imagine a man prevailing against such a being. It is important to note though that Jacob acknowledges that his life was preserved, and not that he was somehow responsible for it (Ephesians 2:8). Also inescapable is the plain text that this being was more than an angel: it was God Himself! The name Peniel in Genesis 32:30 means literally "the face of God", the same verse also reiterates this explicitly. This all adds up to suggest that Jacob was wrestling with Jesus, the Son of God; who in all reality is the face of God (2 Corinthians 4:6, Matthew 17:2). This is the first time that the name Israel appears in the Scriptures, it's meaning is "one who strives with God".
Another thing to pay attention to in Genesis 32 is that this "angel" disclocates Jacob's hip, therefore hindering his walk. The word strive can mean "fight against" as well as "fight alongside". Both make complete sense in our Christian walk. Look way back to Genesis 3:15 and you will see that the serpent bruises Eve's seed's heel. This denotes a hindering in our own walk with Christ. It is very tempting as a Christian to say our walk with Christ is nothing but obedience, but the reality is that our Christian walk is a struggle. And just as with Isaac the struggle only continues until the breaking of day (2 Peter 1:19). But even then, to say we have no sin is to lie to ourselves (1 John 1:8-10). While the devil has power only to bruise our heels, Christ Jesus ultimately crushes his head.
For a glimpse of what the Christian's ultimate outcome is we can look to Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary where the name Israel translates into one "who prevails with God". Let's now take a look at the second recorded occurance of God renaming Jacob. Here we see the blessings bestowed upon him by God.
- And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.
- And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.
- And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
- And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
From this we see that Jacob, who is now called Israel, is to become a nation, and not only that but a company of nations. This covenant was extended from Abraham (Genesis 12:1-2, Genesis 13:15-16, Genesis 15:5, Genesis 17:5-7), through Isaac, to Jacob himself. This promise from God is later extended to Moses (Exodus 6:8, Exodus 33:1, Deuteronomy 1:8) and is now given to us through faith (Romans 4:16-18, Galatians 3:6-9). A few questions then arise. Was not Jacob the seed of Abraham? Are we as Christians also the seed of Abraham? (Galatians 3:14, Galatians 3:29) And if we are of Abraham aren't we also of Jacob and therefore of Israel? The logic seems to hold up so let's explore this idea a bit further through Scripture.
These days it is commonly believed that Israel and "the Jews" are synonymous. This is only a partial truth. Jews are in fact the direct descendents of Judah, who was but one of Jacob's twelve children. These are the same twelve that fathered the twelve tribes of Israel, therefore there are 11 other tribes besides Judah. In short, all Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews. Let's take a look at the last recorded words of Jacob to his sons.
- And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
- Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
- Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
- Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.
- Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
- O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.
- Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
- Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee.
- Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
- The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
- Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
- His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
- Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.
- Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:
- And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.
- Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
- Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
- I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.
- Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.
- Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.
- Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.
- Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
- The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
- But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
- Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
- The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
- Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.
- All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
What we see here is that Jacob blesses some of his children and others he basically curses. Reuben receives harsh words and forfeits his birthright for the adultery he committed with his father's own concubine (Genesis 35:22). Simeon and Levi are devided and scattered for their harsh dealing's with their sister Dinah's rapist and his surrounding village (Genesis 34:25).
Pay special attention to the words of Jacob as directed to Judah and Joseph. Verse eight prophecizes the power that Judah will have over his enemies as well as the respect and praise given from his bretheren (Judah means praised). Judah is then compared to a Lion, who by no coincidence is the king of the jungle. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is the same who is able to loose the seven seals of the book in Revelation 5:5; where this Lion can be none other than Jesus Christ Himself, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The prophecy in verse 10 says that the power of Judah will remain until Shiloh comes (He who the people will gather to). Shiloh is agreed to be Christ, verse 11 backs this up with the imagery of the foal and colt (Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:2-5) and of garments washed in wine, the blood of grapes (Revelation 1:5, Revelation 7:14). Shiloh depicts all people gathering to Christ and giving their obedience; this prophecy has only been partially fulfilled.
When it comes time for Isaac to bless Joseph we see the description of a fruitful branch. This denotes his outreaching growth. We see that even though he is hated by many he remains strong by the hands of God. It is also noted that the shepherd and stone of Israel is descended from Joseph. You guessed it, the shepherd and stone is again referring to Jesus (Matthew 25:32, John 10:11, John 10:16, 1 Peter 5:4, Mark 12:10, Romans 9:33, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:4). We will come back to Joseph in the next part of the study.
Verses referenced in this study:
- Genesis 3:15; 12:1-2; 13:15-16; 15:5; 17:5-7; 32:24-30; 34:25; 35:9-12; 35:22; 49:1-28
- Exodus 2:24-25; 6:8; 33:1
- Deuteronomy 1:8
- Isaiah 12:4
- Zechariah 9:9
- Matthew 17:2; 21:2-5; 25:32
- Mark 12:10
- John 10:11; 10:16
- Romans 4:16-18; 9:33
- 2 Corinthians 4:6
- Galatians 3:6-9; 3:14; 3:28-29
- Ephesians 2:8; 2:20
- 1 Peter 2:4; 5:4
- 2 Peter 1:19
- 1 John 1:8-10
- Revelation 1:5; 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 5:5; 7:3; 7:14; 12:17; 13:7; 13:10; 14:12; 17:14; 21:7
Links referenced in this study: