Israel & The Church
As Christians, many of us read our Bibles, go to church, are involved in a small group or Sunday school class, and pray regularly. But for many of us, if someone asked us to explain with Scripture why we believe that God is not finished with Israel and the Jewish people or why the inspiration of Scripture is important, we would have a hard time giving a clear answer. Several months ago our magazine, Israel My Glory took The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s doctrinal statement and broke it down to explain what we believe as a ministry.
Our ministry was blown away by the responses we received. People stopped us at conferences and thanked us, we received letters, emails, and phone calls from those who said they believe what The Friends of Israel believes and this was a way to put that belief into words. This surprising response helped us see we needed to put what we believe into booklet form. And it also made us see the need to share about it here, on our radio and podcast. Our Christian foundations are just that, foundational.
We welcome back to the program Steve Herzig to talk about some of those foundational beliefs, Israel and the church. We hope you’ll be encouraged and learn to better explain what you believe!
If you missed the show last week, you can Listen Now.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover and with me as always is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. If someone asks you what you believed as a Christian, and you're someone who values the unchanging word of God and loves and supports Israel, how would you answer them? Today we're continuing our focus on the core doctrines of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Our beliefs as an organization originate in the Word of God, and that's why it's important. What we believe affects the way we live and do ministry.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. Doctrine is one of those words, Steve, that I think some people might begin to glaze over, because you start getting technical now, and being technical when it comes to the Bible, it actually matters. Because the thing about doctrine that's so important is Christianity. Our faith in Christ isn't mere emotion. It's actually rooted in doctrine that grounds us, it's positional. It's where we stand with God. And that's why understanding where we stand, the firm foundation upon which we believe and have faith in the Lord, it helps us, I believe, with how we relate with the Lord. So doctrine matters. And so we're going to be going through doctrine for the next few weeks.
And again, joining us will be Steve Herzig, the North American Ministries Director. And today we're actually going to talk about something that's going to be fun. We're going to be talking about the doctrine of Israel and the church, the distinction between Israel and the church, and how we should understand Israel and the church from the Bible. So it's going to be a great discussion.
Steve Conover: But first, in the news, The Jerusalem Post called Israeli-based company Variantyx the one-stop shop for DNA testing. Companies like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and MyHeritage are very popular with the public, but they examine only a small portion of a customer's DNA. Variantyx, on the other hand, goes far beyond the normal DNA test by evaluating the customer's DNA against the entire human genome. The Israeli company is providing answers to rare disease patients and healthy individuals alike.
Chris Katulka: I just found this out recently, you know in 2013 it was an international cooperation. It cost $3 billion, but they unlocked and mapped the entire human genome. And so the entire DNA sequence is right there. And so when companies like Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe, they just tackle a few issues in the DNA structure, Variantyx is looking to really cover the entire human genome, which I think is amazing. But you know, what I kept thinking when I was reading through this article was that we have a God who created us and it's such detail, but at the same time we can understand how God and the way that he created us is so beautiful that you can see that you were both fearfully and wonderfully made.
We're continuing our discussion that surrounds our new booklet that's out, Here We Stand: 19 Key Christian Beliefs. This is very important key doctrines that we here at the Friends of Israel believe are important for us to follow. It's what we stand on, but also we think it's important for our constituents, for our listeners to follow as well to see what are the core Christian beliefs are that we think matter that come from the Scriptures. And in the studio today I have Steve Herzig. We're continuing our discussion. Last week we looked at Jesus and the Word of God and this week we are going to look at something that I know is near and dear to our hearts as well, which is Israel and the church. Steve, great to have you in the studio.
Steve Herzig: Chris, great to be here.
Chris Katulka: All right, so Steve, last week we looked at the Scriptures, we talked about the Word of God, we talked about interpreting the Scriptures, and I actually think this is going to play a major role in how we deal with the questions surrounding Israel and the church and foundational to this conversation that we're going to have about the promise that God made to Abraham way back in Genesis 12. So given how we interpret the Bible literally, can you explain what the promise that God made to Abraham is and why it affects our understanding of Israel from the Bible, the Israel of today, and even the Israel of the future?
Steve Herzig: Chris, that's a great question. You start, you're mentioning Abraham, and Abraham in Genesis 12 was called by God to leave his family and go to a land that God would show him. And as a result of that ask on God's part, Abraham, it says in Genesis 12, Abraham departed. He left. He did what God asked. As a result of that, the promises that God gave are going to be given unconditionally. That is, once Abraham agreed, that part, he asked, God made the ask. Abraham responded, and as a result of that, as you begin to read after Genesis 12 when that promise, and by the way that promise gives a land, we talked about that last week.
Earthy, real. Real land, a seed. We also talked about that last week, that seed, ultimately a forecast even before Abraham in Genesis 3, and a blessing. Those three things were promised to Abraham. Isaac, passed on to Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore God has unconditionally promised certain blessings and as you read the text forward, you find out a lot of those. Some of those were land based. Some of those were spiritual. God's chosen people were to be a light to the Gentiles. That's spiritually. So those are promises that God gave to them. There are some times was conditions on individual Israeli or Israelite behavior, even on Jewish behavior, but the promises that God gave ultimately look forward to the King who we talked about and the kingdom, the ultimate. In fact, as I mentioned, growing up, even though I wasn't a believer going to an unbelieving synagogue, there were certain of those promises that we believed.
We believed there was going to be a kingdom and we believed that there was going to be a Messiah who would usher us to the kingdom. So we believed portions of the text and took portions literally. And that's very significant.
Chris Katulka: So when we look at this idea of Israel and the church, as we're studying this, Israel comes as a result of a promise that God made to Abraham. Abraham steps out in faith and goes, God gives him land, descendants and a blessing. That's the core tenants of the promise that God made to Abraham. It's unconditional, which means it's going to be fulfilled. God will see this thing through. How do we deal with the fact then that most people, they seem to not believe that Israel has a future at all? How does that unconditional promise get worked out in the new Testament? Is it still unconditional today?
Steve Herzig: The promise to Israel is unconditional. What was not known for a long time was what Paul tells us about in Ephesians about this mystery people. There is a mystery people. The Jewish people are the chosen people of God. Who are these mystery people? Well, I would argue individually they're chosen as well, individually before the foundation of the earth. What is this mystery? According to Paul, the mystery is the church. The mystery is that in God's program, ultimately to the kingdom, along the way, once the King comes, once the Messiah comes, dies, rises again from the grave. There is now a call out to both Jews and Gentiles to become part of this mystery people until God accomplishes his purpose, ultimately way back to the promise that Abraham was given in Genesis 12. You and I, Chris, are part of the church.
Those of us who are with Friends of Israel, we want to proclaim the truth, and to anyone, Jewish or Gentile, so that they can become part of this mystery people here for a period of time until God's finished with reaping that harvest and then working once again to deal with the promise that he gave. He hasn't forgot his promise. He will deal with this promise and fulfill it.
Chris Katulka: So with that in mind, God's still, even though that promise was made back in Genesis 12 for Israel, God's still today has a plan for Israel and the Jewish people. Has that promise of a land and descendants and a blessing, does it work its way all the way through the Bible or does it stop at the end of the Old Testament? How should somebody reconcile that idea of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis and ultimately what Jesus does? Does that continue? Did that continue through the Bible, that promise?
Steve Herzig: If you read the narrative, Chris, and I know you have and our hope our listeners will, there are certain promises that God gave in the older Testament text that hasn't happened yet, and therefore it's easy to conclude he's not finished. He's not done. And so the hope, that Christian hope, we at Friends of Israel, we're so excited. We know we're only going to be here a period of time, whether through death or the rapture of the church. God is going to accomplish this purpose at his time, but we know that he's not finished with Israel yet. You know, it's interesting in our own history, we can read about our own former Friends of Israel staff when Israel became a country. They must have thought the time was really short. In God's eyes, it is short, but that's 1948 when it happened. Think about that. It's an amazing thing that Israel's here, but it's no surprise to any Bible believer.
Chris Katulka: And that's because it's rooted in an unconditional promise that goes back to, you know, I'm just reminded of that promise in Genesis 15. God walks through the pieces alone. Abraham's not even in the covenant making process.
Steve Herzig: He's asleep.
Chris Katulka: He's asleep. He's sawing logs and there is God walking through making the promise essentially to himself, making himself accursed, that if he doesn't fulfill this promise, then it God's basically a liar. He has to maintain faithfulness to Israel and the Jewish people because it's his holy reputation at stake.
Steve Herzig: If God is not faithful to the Jew, God will not be faithful to you.
Chris Katulka: And with that said, listen, we're going to have Steve come back in a moment after our break and I want to encourage our listeners to go and be sure to pick up our new booklet, Here We Stand: 19 Key Christian Beliefs, where we look at a bunch of doctrines. Last week we looked at Jesus and the Word. This week we're looking at Israel and the church. How should we understand these things? Why is it important to understand these things as Christians? And so when we come back on the other side, we're going to ask ourselves a question. Number one, what is the purpose of the church? Why is the church here today? And then we're going to talk about what God has in store for the future of Israel. So you want to be sure to stick around.
Steve Conover: If someone asked you what you believed as a Christian and you're someone who values the unchanging Word of God and loves and supports Israel, how would you answer them? Many struggle to understand what God's Word says about creation, the church, Jesus Christ, salvation, Israel, and the end times. Our hope is that our booklet Here We Stand will equip you with 19 key beliefs of the biblical faith. Learning doctrine doesn't have to be a chore. It can revitalize your walk with God and demonstrate your love for him to others as you come to know him better. To purchase your own copy of Here We Stand: 19 Key Christian Beliefs, visit us at foiradio.org. That's FOIradio.org. We'll have a link on our homepage or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940 and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. Once again, that's (888) 343-6940. To order in Canada, call (888) 664-2584. Again, that's (888) 664-2584 and that's in Canada.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. Steve Herzig is in the studio with me and we are talking about doctrine and we're looking at something that's near and dear to our hearts, especially here at the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, is the distinction, the difference between Israel and the church. And there is a difference. Steve, what is the difference that exists between Israel and the church?
Steve Herzig: The difference is that the Jewish people were the only ethnic people who are called by God and given a specific land. You and I, Chris, are part of the church, which is a called out group of people and our citizenship is in heaven. We come from, all different countries, all different backgrounds, all different things and welcomed into God's program through his grace. But Israel is the only group. He has a plan, a purpose. It's outlined for us. We know that they are supposed to be in their land.
We know that there's a future time where the King will rule there for a thousand years. It's unique, but we're unique as well. And the question people have to ask, does God have room for two unique groups of people? He does at the end. When you read the last couple chapters, we're all together, but that doesn't mean there aren't distinctives. There's always distinctives.
Chris Katulka: What's the practicality to having to understand the difference between Israel and the church? For somebody who's listening, maybe they're driving in their car and they think, what does this have to do with my Christian life? Who cares? Israel and the church. That's great. I read the Bible. I love Israel. I love the church. What's the practicality to this whole concept?
Steve Herzig: Well, first of all, when you read the Bible, I think it's fair. We need to come humbly and realize that not all of the Bible is about us.
Chris Katulka: Exactly.
Steve Herzig: It's not about us, but it's all for us. In other words, I could be reading information, and the Bible is more than information, but as I read the text, as I meditate on it, this is in context about a specific person. We've been talking about Abraham or Isaiah or Jeremiah or Israel and the particular dilemma that they were in at the time, their disobedience. Look, Jewish people wrote the book on sin. We got it out there. There's no question about it. Okay, they did it. Well, I'm a Christian though. How does this affect me? Ah. Are there concepts within the text that you can take that are interpreted one specific way but applicable to maybe my situation? It's not uncommon at all for people in their daily devotion to take a text that has nothing to do with them and immediately connect to it in their particular situation.
The church is unique in that the Holy Spirit is our teacher and he has certainly all kinds of room to connect us with the Word. We talked about that, the Word becoming flesh, the logos, the Word, the Bible. Jesus connects us and says, this text speaks to me. That's God speaking. That's applicable. It doesn't mean that I'm Abraham and my wife is Sarah. No, there was a real Abraham and a real Sarah, but it might be that in the context there, I see a situation that that is helping me and because of my relationship with God, the Holy Spirit's connecting me to the text, which is past, but now present because I'm getting a lesson.
Chris Katulka: I love the idea that you're saying that the Bible is not about us, but the practicality to the whole thing is our faith is rooted back into this promise that God made to Abraham, that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. And so while in one sense the Bible isn't just about my daily needs and wants and my issues. While it is, it is, it's designed to be a Scriptures that do that for my personal relationship with the Lord. But at the same time, we are a part of a bigger plan that God has that's beyond our little moment in time here in God's span of human history. And God has a bigger thing that he's doing, a bigger plan that he's moving, and we get to be a part of that. And it's just a difference of your perspective. And so when you can kind of get above and see the big picture of what God is doing through the Jewish people, all the families of the earth would be blessed, which they have been. Jesus, the Messiah came through them. I think it gives us a better understanding of the practicality. Oh my goodness, this stuff matters. Israel matters. The Jewish people matter. God's plan of redemption matters. And we all have a part in saying it as well.
Steve Herzig: You know, Chris, the Bible teaches us that life's about relationships, relationships. Israel was to have a relationship with God. And the narrative is a continuous story of how they didn't want to necessarily do that exclusively. And you know, some of our listeners in the application might think that going to church might not be important. Yet the Bible says don't forsake the assembling of yourselves. Relationships, the idea of community. You find when you relate to other people that the world is bigger. The Bible as a narrative tells us how big the world is, the needs that there are. It isn't about us. God has a perspective. It changes everything when we understand contextually what it's saying.
Chris Katulka: And that's why it's important to understand the distinction. The difference between Israel and the church. There is one. God has used Israel and God in the past has used Israel in the Scriptures, but that doesn't mean that he's done with them. He still has a plan. He still has a future for them. And even today, God is using the church to reach out into the nations to share the good news of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. And that's why it's important to understand the value of what the church is and what it means and what it means to be a part of the church, to use your gifts. So I want to encourage you to be sure to pick up our recent booklet, Here We Stand: 19 Key Christian Beliefs. Steve, thank you so much for being a part of the program again.
Steve Herzig: Glad to do it, Chris.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenaged Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: The Bible says that the people of Israel are God's chosen people, his peculiar treasure. Israelis consider this to be a great honor, but most forget there are conditions for them to receive God's blessings. In Deuteronomy 11:26-28, the Lord said, "Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing if you obey my commandments and the curse if you do not obey my commandments." Many Israelis believe that just because they live in Israel, God will bless them regardless of disobedience. I recently met some who believed this way. I told them, "My friends, it is not enough that you live in Israel. Deuteronomy 12:1 states, these are the statutes in the judgment which you must observe in the land which the Lord God is giving you to possess all the days that you live on the earth."
They responded, "We realize you are a Christian and you want us to receive Jesus as our Savior, as you people always say. We know you are not courageous enough to tell the rabbis what you are telling us." I replied, "Everyone must hear the truth about our Savior, and actually many times I have told rabbis what I just told you. One day, when you stand before the Lord to give an account for your life, your rabbis will not stand with you. You will stand before him alone. Neither do the rabbis have the power to forgive your sins." They became interested in what I was sharing, but one of them said, "Our fathers lived and died following these traditions. It is hard for us to forsake the old ways." "I understand your concerns," I told him, "but if you do not change your ways when you die, you will be lost forever with no opportunity to be saved."
They seemed frightened and asked, "Do you think we've already gone too far?" "No," I answered. "This is only the beginning. When you start to fear, your eyes will be open to see biblical truth. You will see the folly of following old traditions and not accepting the responsibility for your eternal souls." One of the men said, "We have studied the Talmud all our lives. You cannot teach us anything we do not already know." I then asked the entire group, "Which book is more important, the Talmud or the Torah? If you're good Jews, why do you not keep the law as it is written in Deuteronomy 5:7, 'You shall have no other gods before me'? This is only one of the many commandments that Israelis do not keep. Every person is responsible for himself before the Lord and Ezekiel 18:20 tells us that the soul who sins shall die. Our fathers and rabbis cannot save us, but if you receive the Lord, you will be blessed rather than cursed." At the end of our conversation, one said, "We never realized that those who believe in Jesus followed the Bible so closely. This is the first time we have heard what you really believe." I pray for them that the Lord will cause them to meditate on what they hear, that they will recognize the truth as it is written in his Word, and that they will open their hearts to him as their Savior and Messiah.
Steve Conover: As we close, we'd like to thank Steve Herzig for being with us these last two weeks, and Chris, we have a new guest next week. Tell our listeners where we're headed.
Mike Kellogg: Yeah, Dr. Mike Stallard, he's the director of International Ministries here at the Friends of Israel. We're going to be continuing our discussion on doctrine and we're going to be looking at who God is and really the issue of creation as well, so something I think our listeners will really enjoy. Also a reminder, if you have not subscribed to Israel My Glory, you can get a one year free subscription at no cost. You can visit us at foiradio.org. FOI as in Friends of Israel radio.org. And there you can also find our new booklet, Here We Stand: 19 Key Christian Beliefs, that we were talking about all throughout the program. Again, that's FOIradio.org.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry, communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Here We Stand: 19 Key Christian Beliefs
If someone asked you what you believed as a Christian—someone who values the unchanging Word of God and loves and supports Israel—how would answer them? Many struggle to understand what God’s Word says about Creation, the church, Jesus Christ, salvation, Israel, and the end-times.
Our hope is our booklet Here We Stand will equip you! Learning doctrine doesn’t have to be a chore. It can revitalize your walk with God and demonstrate your love for Him to others as you come to know Him better.
Apples of Gold: It Is Hard For Us To Forsake The Old Ways
Zvi encountered Israelis that believed God would bless them just because they lived in Israel even though they did not believe in His Son. He asked them where they got their authority from: the Bible or books written by man. They accused him of trying to proselytize because he was a believer in Jesus. Because of the Jewish faith of their fathers, it was hard for them to believe in anything else. Hear how Zvi explained where his authority and hope came from.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
ISRAEL MY GLORY — FREE ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION!
Hard-hitting, accurate, up-to-date analysis of Israel and the Middle East. Thought-provoking examination of God’s Word. Answers about the end-times. The truth behind today’s headlines. Immediate access to the latest books and resources. People who want to be informed—and have a heart for God’s Chosen People—rely on Israel My Glory.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.