Dr. Thomas S. McCall


End Time Prophecies About Israel Fulfilled During The Church Age

God Preserves The Jews, Their Identity And Culture in Spite of Persecution

STC172909 A Rabbi tying the Phylacteries to the arm of a boy (oil on canvas) by Jewish School (19th century) oil on canvas Private Collection The Stapleton Collection Israeli, out of copyright

STC172909 A Rabbi tying the Phylacteries to the arm of a boy (oil on canvas) by Jewish School (19th century) oil on canvas Private Collection The Stapleton Collection Israeli, out of copyright

Psalm 121:4

4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep (NASB).

There were prophecies in the Old and New Testament discussing the future restoration of Israel, with a descendant of David sitting on his throne. The disciples also are assured they will rule over the tribes of Israel when the Son of Man sits on His throne:

Jeremiah 33:17

17 “For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel.’” (NASB)

Luke 1:31-33

31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end” (NASB).

Ezekiel 37:12-14

12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD (NASB).

Matthew 19:28

28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (NASB).

Jewish and Christian Zionism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares that a State of Israel would not be possible without Christian Zionists. Throughout the centuries there have always been Jewish people who believed in the restoration of Israel, with the hope of meeting together “next year in Jerusalem.” However, it was not until the 1890s that Theodore Hertzl organized the First Zionist Congress in Switzerland, and the vague hope of restoration became a practical reality. How did this happen? The answer to this development lies in the little known relationship between certain key individuals, now known as Christian Zionists, and their counterparts in the Jewish Zionists movement.

Theodore Hertzel

Theodore Herzl

Around 1700 A.D. Among the earliest Christian Zionists (who were sometimes called Restorationists) was the American Puritan pastor Increase Mather who wrote The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation. By reading the prophecies of the future of Israel, he rediscovered the Biblical teachings of Christian Zionism. He described the mystery as follows: “The scope of this Treatise is to hold forth the calling of the Jews, their reduction into their own Land, and the glorious estate of the Church which shall then be.” [1]

Later, in the mid 1800s, J. N. Darby and others studied the same prophecies and developed the Powers Court Prophecy Conferences. A rediscovery and reaffirmation of the future of Israel, the Rapture of the Church, Dispensationalism, and Christian Zionism were the products of these intensive Bible studies.

One of the main passages reaffirming Israel’s return to the land is the “Vision of the Dry Bones” found in Ezekiel 37. This describes the process of a vast amount of dry human bones coming together, forming skeletons, and then flesh coming over the skeletons making dead bodies. Finally, the Sprit of God blows over the bodies, and brings them to life. The Lord explains this vision of the Dry Bones as being the Nation of Israel being restored and replaced in its own Land in the end times:


Valley of the Dry Bones of Ezekiel by Gustave Dore. Cir 1850

Valley of the Dry Bones of Ezekiel by Gustave Dore. Cir 1850

Ezekiel 37:1-10

1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 And He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, Thou knowest.” 4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ 5 “Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. 6 ‘And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.'” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”‘” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (NASB).

Theodore Herzl And William Hechler

Many people are aware that Theodore Herzl was the founder of Zionism in the 1890s, but few know about his critical relationship with William Hechler. Hechler was the son of a German father and a British mother who became an Anglican minister and was assigned as a chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna, Austria. He was an avid student of Bible prophecy, deeply involved in the Dispensational movement in Britain, and a close friend of Sir Robert Anderson. By reading Anderson’s book, The Coming Prince, Hechler was aware of Christ’s prophesied triumphal entry on Palm Sunday into Jerusalem, which conclusively demonstrated the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Sir Anderson was a serious Bible student, as well as being the head of the famed Scotland Yard, the premier British detective bureau in London.

While serving in the British Embassy in Vienna, Hechler soon learned of Theodore Herzl, who was trying to organize a movement so that Jews could return to Israel. He was having little success because he had no significant connections. When Herzl first met Hechler, he thought he was somewhat of a religious eccentric, but gradually realized that this Christian chaplain was just as serious about Jewish restoration as he was.

Furthermore, Hechler had connections. He knew a German Duke who knew the German monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm. Hechler was able to get the Kaiser and Herzl together and they agreed to pursue the Zionist cause. Next the Kaiser met with the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and later a subsequent meeting between the Kaiser and Herzl took place in Jerusalem. There was considerable confusion surrounding these meetings, but the London press reported that the events provided a strong advance for the cause and organization of the Zionist movement. By 1900 many of the Jews of Europe had adopted the Zionist Movement.

The strange irony in all of this was that the German monarch was the first European head of state to give formal recognition to Zionism, in part through the efforts of the little known Christian Zionist, William Hechler. Yet this was the same country that turned so violently against the Jewish people a few decades later under Hitler and the Holocaust.




Chaim Weitzman from His home in Jerusalem

Chaim Weitzman from His home in Jerusalem

The next major advance in Zionism came at the end of World War I. Weitzman was a German Jewish chemist who moved to Britain, and discovered a high powered explosive that was able to end the trench warfare stalemate, and allow the Allies to defeat the German army. Weitzman was also a committed Zionist, and was a good friend of Foreign Minister Lord Arthur Balfour. Balfour was a Scottish Presbyterian, who had learned the Old Testament as his mother’s knee, and was a Christian Zionist at heart.

The British government wanted to show its appreciation to Weitzman for his vital assistance during the War, so Weitzman and Balfour composed what has come to be known as the Balfour Declaration in 1917. [2]

In 1917 Britain issued the Balfour Declaration encouraging Jews to return to the Land.

Foreign Office

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour

This document allowed Jews to return to the Land with the blessing of the British government, which was now in control of the British Mandate of Palestine. What had been a trickle of Jewish immigrants now became a veritable stream of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe and Russia fleeing the turmoil of the Communist revolution. Once again, it was the collaboration between a Jewish Zionist and a Christian Zionist in the right place, at the right time that brought about this advance.

In 1925 the League of Nations ratified the San Remo Treaty recognizing Palestine as the Jewish home. The British were granted authority, called The Mandate, over Palestine. The actual administration of the Mandate was called the Mandatory.

The Mandatory was to be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine as the national home for the Jewish people. It was clearly understood that nothing should be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

Specific Biblical Prophecies Regarding Israel’s Return

The prophet Ezekiel received prophecies regarding the future for Israel in “the last days”. Some of these focused on the period after the Great Tribulation such as the thirty-seventh chapter when they would be restored to the Land because then they will have believed in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This is commonly referred to as the “valley of dry bones” prophecy described earlier. Other prophecies Ezekiel received from God made it quite clear that the Jews would be in the Land as a nation before they experienced a national repentance and restoration:

Ezekiel 20: 33-38

33“As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. 34            “I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; 35 and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 36“As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,” declares the Lord God. 37 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38 and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Lord (NASB).

The Lord is giving this prophecy to Israel used the Exodus as an illustration of what He is going to do in the future. Much in the same way God led them out of the persecutions by the Egyptians, and moved them into the Promised Land, He declares He would do it again. Looking back in time and remembering that this prophecy was given in the sixth century before Christ, it is clear that He has already done that prior to this day (2015).

This time, though, God interestingly says that He will bring them out from “the peoples” and gather them from the countries (plural) where they have been. Since 586 B.C. they have been scattered throughout the countries of the world. Almighty God began regathering them out of all the countries in the world in the late 1800’s, which is known as the Zionist movement. They were persecuted in many of the nations in which they lived and wanted a safe homeland. The judgment described must be significant in order to make it into the biblical text. The most serious judgment He brought on them was the Nazi holocaust when six million Jews were destroyed in the Nazi’s genocide of the Jews. This set the stage for world sympathy, which led to them becoming a nation. The regathering, though, was in unbelief. We can see in the passage cited above that this regathering, “is with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.” This is God saying to the Nation Israel, and repeating it twice, that He gathers them out of wrath and for wrath. The term “outstretched arm” means that God is exercising His wrath. This is coming from wrath, and then going into wrath. The wrath that He leads them from is the Nazi persecution. He brought them into the Land as a sovereign nation while still in unbelief. They will live as a nation for a while in unbelief until the Great Tribulation when the Antichrist will declare himself god and initiate the worst persecution the Jews will have ever seen. After that final wrath they will turn to Him and accept Christ as their Messiah. But from the Nazi Holocaust to the Great Tribulation there will be a period where they will have residence in the Land, but not be spiritually regenerated as a nation. In other words, God will not be their God; and Christ will not be their Messiah. Nevertheless, God loves them. Because He loves them, and made promises to their patriarchal ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He will give them the Land they have been guaranteed. God’s promises are always kept, and there are no exceptions.


Nazi Yellow Star Pined on Jews

Nazi Yellow Star Pined on Jews

The second passage is found in Ezekiel chapter twenty-two and further describes the issue of being in the Land, but in unbelief:

Ezekiel 22: 17-22

17 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 18 “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are the dross of silver. 19 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because all of you have become dross, therefore, behold, I am going to gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 ‘As they gather silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into the furnace to blow fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in My anger and in My wrath and I will lay you there and melt you. 21‘I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you will be melted in the midst of it. 22‘As silver is melted in the furnace, so you will be melted in the midst of it; and you will know that I, the Lord, have poured out My wrath on you.’ (NASB).

In this passage the prophet Ezekiel is given God’s Word describing a regathering of the Jews to Jerusalem. Here God describes the fact that they are far from Him as He characterizes their spiritual condition like the impurities in metallurgical processing. Dross is the burn-off of the undesirables, while the metal is purified through the consistent application of a high temperature fire. Fire is used in the Bible to refer to the refinement process God uses to bring those that He has chosen into submission to His will. This is exactly how He describes what He will do to them in the future for the purpose of purifying them. But for the purposes of identification and setting the chronology of this verse, it is when they have gathered in the Land and before the judgment. So today they in the Land regathered from the various nations throughout the world and Jerusalem is their capital. This is where this judgment will take place. So they are back in the Land in unbelief not realizing that their judgment is coming. Although there are several more passages that could be cited to confirm that God has brought them back into the Land in unbelief, the last passage that will be referenced is located in Zephaniah chapter two.

Zephaniah 2: 1-2

1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather, O nation without shame, 2 Before the decree takes effect—The day passes like the chaff—Before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you, Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you (NASB).

Again the text says that they are gathering together as a nation but they have no shame. This means that they are not recognizing their sinful ways. Therefore, they are gathered together in unbelief. They will receive the judgment meted out by the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation referred to here as the “day of the Lord’s anger”. This is the most common form of reference to the Great Tribulation in the Old Testament. The Tribulation will begin with the signing of a seven-year covenant between the Antichrist and the Nation Israel. So since begins before the Tribulation, we can assume that there are Jewish political leaders in a Jewish State. The Jewish State does exist, they are back in the Land in unbelief, and they don’t realize it now, but their judgment and refinement is nearing its time.


Photo from Dachau Concentration Camp from the Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/dachaumartins.html

Photo from Dachau Concentration Camp from the Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/dachaumartins.html

After the Nazi persecution Jewish refugees fled to the Land and established the revived sovereign State of Israel in May of 1948. Since then Israel has been attacked numerous times and miraculously survived. Ezekiel chapters 20 and 22 prophesied that Israel would return from their dispersion throughout the earth’s the nations. In Ezekiel chapter 37 the regathering was a process described beginning with Dry Bones. At present there are seven million Jews in Israel. This represents approximately half of the Jews in the world. At present there are reported to be 15,000 Israeli believers in Christ, continuing “the remnant”. Some Israelis know the Bible teaches that a future Temple will be built, and are making preparations for it to include re-establishing the priesthood and a governing body known as the Sanhedrin.

End Time Prophecies About Israel After The Rapture of The Church

After the Rapture of the Church, 144,000 Jews will be saved and sealed as God’s evangelists during the Tribulation:


The Rapture of the Church artist Unknown

The Rapture of the Church artist Unknown

Revelation 7:3-4

3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel (NASB).

A Seven Year Treaty is Ratified Between Unbelieving Israel and The Antichrist

Daniel 9:27

27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (NASB).

At The End of The Tribulation The Surviving Jews Will Receive Christ and be Saved

Zechariah 12:10

10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born” (NASB).

Romans 11:25-27

25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus al Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins” (NASB).

Israel will have a prominent role in the Millennial Kingdom

Isaiah 14:1-2

1 When the LORD will have compassion on Jacob, and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land, then strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. 2 And the peoples will take them along and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them as an inheritance in the land of the LORD as male servants and female servants; and they will take their captors captive, and will rule over their oppressors (NASB).

Revelation 20:6

6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years (NASB).


Some have erroneously thought that Israel has dropped off the divine radar since the First Coming of Christ, and that there is no present or future for the Jewish people. This article has presented the evidence that there are many prophecies in the Old and New Testaments that describe the tragic dispersion of the Jewish people, their miraculous preservation throughout the Church Age, and their equally miraculous restoration of Israel as a nation among the family of nations. Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists have played a significant role over the past few centuries in these remarkable developments.



[1] Mather, Increase, The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation Explained and Applied, Publisher John Allen, London, 1669.

[2] Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel From The Rise of Zionism to Our Time, 2nd Ed. Publisher Alfred A. Knopf New NY 2006 pg.109.

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Dr. Thomas S. McCall

We often hear of Bible prophecy as it relates to the First and Second Coming of Christ, which is very important, but there is much more Bible prophecy concerning what the Lord is doing between the two Advents of Jesus during the Church Age. These prophecies specifically pertain to God’s ancient covenant people, Israel, and His new covenant people, the Church. This article explains God’s preservation of, and promises to the Jewish people throughout the Church Age, in preparation for the ultimate restoration of Israel to its own Kinsman Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophecies will be grouped under two headings; first, those that have already been fulfilled during the Church Age, and second, the end time prophecies yet to be fulfilled during the Church Age.

Bible Prophecies About Israel Fulfilled During The Church Age

The Nation of Israel will be preserved intact until the Second Coming of Christ and through the Millennial Kingdom.


Jeremiah 31:35-37

35 Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: 36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.”37 Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off al the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the Lord (NSAB).

The Lord said to Jeremiah that He would always view the Nation of Israel as His, no matter what the circumstances on this earth are, or what they have done.

Jerusalem would be the Cradle of Christianity

Acts 1:8

8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (NASB).

Christ Himself prophesied all of this, and Israel played a large role in the creation of the Church. The Church began in Jerusalem, with thousands of believers on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, and spread from there to the ends of the earth. The invitation to become believers in Christ joins each believer to the Church, and is still developing today. Humanly speaking, if the Jewish believers had not started the Church, there would never have been a worldwide church.

The Jewish Apostles Built The Church on The Foundation of Christ

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio Cir 1602-03

Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio Cir 1602-03

Ephesians 2:19 – 22

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (NASB).

Paul explains in the book of Ephesians that the church is a bifurcated organism, composed of two parts: Jewish believers and Gentile believers. In effect, a church without Gentile believers is incomplete, and a church without Jewish believers is incomplete. They are like a bird with two wings, both wings necessary to enable the bird to fly.

The New Testament Was Written by Jews

Romans 3:1

1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all , that they were entrusted with the oracles of God (NASB).

The Oracles of God came to Israel

The Oracles of God came to Israel

Furthermore, God’s plan is that when He has a message for the human race, He has always had it written down by Jewish hands, both for the Old and New Testaments. Some say that Dr. Luke was a Gentile, but I am convinced that there are many cogent arguments to support the fact that Luke was a Jew. (A more detailed discussion regarding Luke’s Jewishness can be found on the blog article I wrote on this subject.[1]). Throughout its 4,000-year history, Israel has frequently been a “lost” nation, just like the rest of the nations who turned away from God. However, there has always been a minority, a remnant, in Israel that has looked forward in faith to the coming Redeemer Christ, or who have looked back in faith to the first coming of their Redeemer Christ.

A Remnant in Elijah’s Time

Romans 11:2-4

2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4 But what is God’s response to him? “I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.” (NASB)

A Remnant in The Church Age

Romans 11:5-7

5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened (NASB).

The Bible declared that the Lord wanted the Gospel to be given to the Jews first throughout the Church Age. This was the priority of all evangelism during the Church Age, to the Jew first and then to the Gentile:

Romans 1:16

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (NASB).

The Lord’s desire prophesied in both Testaments was for the Gospel of Christ, in every generation, to be delivered to the Jews first, and then it would proceed out to the greater Gentile population. Regrettably, after the first century, this was rarely the case. The Church did not carry this out as the Lord desired.

The Synagogue Was the Natural Place For The Gospel to Be Taught

Acts 17:1-4

1 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonian, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women (NASB).

The Lord Jesus taught in the synagogues (Luke 4:15, 13:10; Matthew 4:23,13:10). The synagogue was an institution that developed during the Babylonian exile, and was a place where Jews gathered for worship, study, and prayer. For the exiles in Babylon it served as a replacement for the Temple. It grew in importance over the years, and by the time of Paul’s missionary journeys they populated the entire Roman Empire.

Judgment on Israel, Jerusalem and The Temple in 70 A.D.

Jerusalem under attack by Titus Vespasian Artist Poussin 1623

Jerusalem under attack by Titus Vespasian Artist Poussin 1623

Matthew 23:33-39

33 “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell ? 34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 that upon you may fall the guilt of al the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 “Truly I say to you, al these things shall come upon this generation. 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 “For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (NASB)

There is no question that a terrible judgment fell upon Israel for not recognizing and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah and Redeemer. The Temple was destroyed and as a result the Jewish people have been scattered over the entire earth for hundreds and hundreds of years. Nevertheless, as the Bible tells us this judgment will not last forever. The end to the judgment will come when all Israel as a nation recognizes that the Jesus they despised has always been their true Messiah. They are not corporately ready to do that today. One must ask the question, what will cause them to do this? Sadly, it appears that the only thing that will accomplish this will be the awful experience with the future Antichrist and the Old Testament designation of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, known in the New Testament as the Great Tribulation. Then, and only then, will Israel be eager, willing, and able to receive Jesus, and welcome Him as the one whom the Bible says will come in the Name of the Lord.

Persecution of Israel Throughout The World

Jesus further prophesied the following:

The results of what would happen to Jerusalem and Israel as a consequence of their rejecting His Messiahship as well as His redemptive kingdom.

Within 40 years the Romans would surround the capital, destroy the Temple.

The Jewish people would be scattered in captivity throughout the Gentile world.

Luke 21:20-24

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. 21 “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that al things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 “Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people,24and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (NASB).

The Church Turns Against Israel With Replacement Theology

After the First Century, John Chrysostom, one of the early anti-Semitic Church fathers (349 – 407 A.D.), developed the theology that the Church has replaced Israel, and there is no future for Israel in God’s plan and purpose, resulting in the church turning against the Jewish people and becoming anti-Semitic.[2] This is in direct opposition to Paul’s prophetic warned using imagery of the Olive Tree as God’s blessing, and telling the Gentile believers not to become conceited and boast against the “natural branches”, since the natural branches are Israel who were chosen first to receive God’ divine blessing. Paul warned what would happen if they pursued such an erroneous doctrine:

Romans 11:17-21

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you (NASB).

Abandonment of Jewish Evangelism by the Church

Romans 11:11

11 I say then, they [the Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous (NASB, clarification added).

The purpose of salvation coming to the Gentiles during the Church Age was not to obliterate Israel. Rather, it was meant to cause the Jewish people to be amazed that Gentiles were coming to faith in the God of Abraham, that they believed the Jewish Bible, and were drawn to knowing the Jewish Messiah in order to receive eternal life through Him. This was to cause the Jews to want all these things themselves. But the Church turned its back on the Jew, and was even instrumental in the persecution of the Jews through much of Church history.

The Church rejected the Biblical teaching of the future of Israel by 500 A.D.

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

The Carthaginian theologian Augustine at first was a Chiliast (premillennialist), but was converted to amillennialism, and by the time he visited Rome no longer believed in the future of Israel. He then popularized Replacement Theology, which replaces the Jews with the Church as God’s chosen people, and made it the dominant doctrine of Christianity to this day. This was in direct contradiction to the admonition to the Church about Israel by the Apostle Paul:

Romans 11:25-26

25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins” (NASB).


[1] http://doctorwoodhead.com/was-luke-a-jew-or-a-gentile/

[2] Allen, Pauline, Wendy Mayer. John Chrysostom. London: Routledge, 2000.

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The Olive Tree Anti-Semitism and Bible Prophecy



imagesDr. Thomas S. McCall

At a convention of the Pre-Trib Study Group in Dallas, Dr. John Walvoord presented a paper on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and Premillennial teaching, including the history of doctrines throughout the Church age.  I was very much struck by something that Dr. Walvoord said as he analyzed the transition from widely held pre-millennial views of the early church in the first three centuries to the predominantly amillennial, postmillennial or anti-millennial views that developed afterwards, and it centered around Augustine.

Latent Anti-Semitism Caused Amillennialism

I appreciated especially what Dr. Walvoord said, as quoted from the audio tape of his message, in his analysis of what happened in the case of Augustine:

“Augustine arbitrarily made the millennium non-literal, while everything else was literal.  Now as far as I’ve been able to find out, there has never been a book on doctrine that explains this.  But there is possibly an explanation.  In the first two centuries the church was largely Jewish in its background.  They were the evangelists, and they were the apostles.  But as the gospel grew, the church became largely Gentile.  And, of course the millennium is a time when the Jews are prominent, and it could be that there is a latent anti-Semitism here that they were quite unconscious of, that made them question whether Israel is going to have a literal future like it says.  And that, of course, would lead to a non-literal millennial kingdom.   In any case, that’s what happened, and the Roman Catholic Church became amillennial, and the Protestant Reformers like Calvin, Luther and others went back to Augustine rather than to the Bible, and adopted amillennialism.  They brought in, though, a lot of other things that were important, like “every man a priest” and “interpret the Bible yourself,” and so on, very important doctrines that have been the bulwark of Protestantism.  But, it wasn’t until the 19th and 20th Centuries when the Bible Conference movement began, and people began to ask what does the Scripture actually say?  It was not until then that premillennialism became a prominent feature in the church–as it is today in some churches, at least.  And that’s the background.  So we have to understand there’s a long history of this, and we are a minority.  We believe the Bible is literally true and they don’t, and we believe we have the facts on our side.  That’s why we believe what we believe.”

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840

Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840


Thus Dr. Walvoord said it was his impression that it was latent anti-Semitism that caused Augustine and those around him to have this transition in their thinking.  That’s a remarkable statement.   How in the world can latent anti-Semitism have anything to do with one’s eschatological viewpoint, and how can it impact the eschatological viewpoint of the whole church?  Well, I think that it does, and that’s one of the things we are going to be looking at in this article.

There is an inherent connection between one’s attitude toward the Jewish people and Israel and one’s attitude toward the Scriptures and eschatology.   How does that happen?   It’s an understanding of what the Scriptures teach about the nature of the church, the nature of Israel, and the nature of the Olive Tree.  As Dr. Walvoord brought out, at the time of the beginning of the Bible Conference movement, there was a rediscovery of Israel and the promises to Israel in the Scriptures.  Some of the early works published in this movement had to deal with the future of Israel, as scholars began to rediscover premillennialism and literal eschatology.  Of course many of the amillennialists, including Augustine, would have been shocked if someone were to say they were anti-Semitic, and they would deny it strenuously.  And they would say, why, there’s not an anti-Semitic bone in my body!  All we want to do (they might say) is to take away the promises that God has given to Israel and apply them to the church!  Well, that sounds pretty anti-Semitic to me.

The Meaning of the Olive Tree

If then it is true that latent anti-Semitism is a basic cause of much eschatological error, what is the solution?  I would suggest that a Biblical understanding of the Olive Tree discourse in Romans 11 would do much to combat latent anti-Semitism among Gentile believers in Christ. The Olive Tree of Romans 11 has been an enigma to many Bible interpreters throughout the centuries of the Church Age:

. . . if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. 24For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:16b-24)

Most amillennial commentaries have jumped to the conclusion that the Olive Tree is the Church, beginning in Old Testament times and continuing on to the present in its current form.  Thus, the Church becomes the New Improved Israel, and the Jewish people are relegated to the dustbin of history, as an outmoded, irrelevant part of God’s plan, sort of like an appendix – a vestigial organ.  With this type of thinking, replacement theology was born and continues as the dominant teaching of the vast majority of Church scholars.

At the other extreme, some more recent interpreters have suggested that the Olive Tree is Israel, the Jewish people, and that Gentile believers, through their being grafted in, have become Israelites, now have a “Jewish heart,” and should be considered themselves as Jews.  While this interpretation may lie closer to the truth than the replacement theology noted above, it too seems to fall short of what the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit, is endeavoring to teach us.

To understand the Olive Tree, it seems we have to see it in its broader context in association with the Church and Israel.

The Church, Israel and the Olive Tree

The Olive Tree by Thomas S. McCall Th.D.

Various Entities Created by God

For instance, God created the entity of marriage.  That was the first entity or institution, as it were, He created, and we who are married find our relationship with our spouse to be that we are actually “one flesh.”  Marriage is an entity in which we have to find our proper Scriptural relationship.

Then there is the entity of the family.  That’s a little different.  It includes the marriage, but it’s more.  There is the relationship between the parents and the child.  We have to find and understand our relationship there.  There are different Biblical principles involved in our relationships within the family.

He created human government, and we have to find our relationship to Caesar.  “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” We have a responsibility as citizens of government, especially when we are fortunate enough to be in a constitutional republic.  The Lord has created the concept of government as well as all of these entities.

God has also created work.  We have to find our relationship either as an employee or an employer in a Biblical sense.  There is a Biblical attitude we must understand, if we are directed by a boss or if we direct others in our livelihood.

In the realm of divine covenants, though, God has also created the Church, Israel and the Olive Tree.  We need to know our Scriptural relationship to all the entities God has created.

The Church

The Church as the Body of Christ is described in Eph. 2.  Outside the Body of Christ, are the unsaved Jews and the unsaved Gentiles.  The Jews are described as being very near.   Strange, many have thought that they were a long ways off out in left field, but the Scriptures describe the Jews as being near.  The Gentiles are seen as being far off.  Unsaved Gentiles are very far off, and between the two, Jews and Gentiles, there is a middle wall of partition. This was symbolized in the Temple, where no Gentile could pass the middle wall of partition, upon penalty of death.  Outside of Christ, this wall remains, as forbidding as it ever was, and I don’t think it’s ever been removed.   There is still this great wall between unsaved Jews and unsaved Gentiles.

However, when Jews receive Christ, they are baptized into the Body of Christ; and when Gentiles receive Christ, they are baptized into the Body of Christ, the middle wall of partition is broken down, and we are one in Him.  There is no difference in status: neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, neither male nor female, we are all one in Him.  We are seated together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  What remarkable doctrine is the Body of Christ!

To the Church belong unique prophetic promises, including the Rapture before the Tribulation, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Marriage of the Lamb, Reigning with Christ during the Millennium, and the New Jerusalem for eternity.  As a member of the Body of Christ, I would not want to trade places with any other entity God has created.


Next is Israel.  Israel has many facets.  There is the nation Israel that is under the covenant of God, and that covenant relationship began with Abraham.  It continues to this day, and will continue through the Second Coming of Christ, when He will establish Israel as the head of the nations and no longer the tail.  All during this time of the covenant, the majority of the nation is unsaved.  The majority of the nation is, for all intents and purposes, unbelieving.  However, there has always been a remnant according to the election of grace.  In Elijah’s time, in Joshua’s time, in our time, there has always been a remnant that has been saved.  This is God’s promise.  It is one promise God has made to Israel that He has not made to any other nation, that every generation will have a remnant according to the election of grace.  In the Church age, the remnant of Israel is a significant part of the Body of Christ.  It’s a remarkable thing.  But the vast majority of the nation Israel does not know the Messiah.  They missed the opportunity to see the Kingdom established when He came to Israel (“the hour of their visitation”), and He has told them “You will not see me henceforth, until you say, ‘Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Israel has a glorious future: the restoration of the nation, the national salvation of Israel when Christ returns to the earth, and the glory of being the head of the nations during the Millennium.  We are seeing the beginnings of this process now, as the “dry bones” of Ezekiel’s prophecy are being gathered together in preparation for the Tribulation and the Millennium

Furthermore, the Gentiles have a relationship to Israel.  It is part of the Abrahamic covenant, and it’s either a promise or a warning to Gentiles: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.”  Thus, Gentiles can be blessed by God depending on how they relate to Israel:  blessings for blessings, curses for cursings.  Also, some Gentiles have become and still do become, to a certain extent, proselytes to Israel.  They are added on, by submission to circumcision, the Law of Moses and to Judaism as such.

The Olive Tree

Then there is the third entity, which is the Olive Tree.  It has as its roots in the fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  If the root is holy, so are the branches.  This is the good and cultivated Olive Tree, which has been tended to through the centuries, and the natural branches are the Jews.  They are born into the Olive Tree naturally.  But, it is only believing Jews who remain in the Olive Tree.  Unbelieving Jews, of all things, are broken off.  They are dead, lying at the side of the tree.  Strangely enough, there are  also these wild olive trees, and branches from the wild olive trees that are grafted into the good Olive Tree, the cultivated Olive Tree, and live off the nourishment from the roots and the sustaining power of God.

That is how the Olive Tree is described.  But what is the Olive Tree?  How can it be defined?  First, it helps to clarify what the Olive Tree is not.

The Olive Tree is not the Church

It should be understood that the Olive Tree is not the Church.  Some people are born naturally into the Olive Tree, but no one is born physically into the Church, the Body of Christ.  The only way one can enter into the Body of Christ is by being born again by personal faith in the Lord Jesus.

Furthermore, it is clear from the New Testament that the Church began at the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost after Christ ascended to Heaven, when the believers were baptized into the Body of Christ. The Church did not begin in the Old Testament!  The Church began at Pentecost and will end its current ministry on the earth with the Rapture.  The Olive Tree, on the other hand, began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), and continues on earth past the Rapture, and on through the Tribulation and the Millennium.  Thus, the Olive Tree cannot be the Church.

The Olive Tree is not Israel

Also, the Olive Tree cannot be Israel.  Some natural branches are broken off the Olive Tree, representing Jews who do not believe in Jesus the Messiah, even though they are physically still alive.  They are physically alive but are spiritually dead, broken off branches.  However, no one can be broken off of Israel, as long as he is physically alive.  The often-heard dictum, “I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew,” is an accurate saying.  Once a person is born into the covenant nation of Israel, he remains an Israelite until he is physically dead.

Furthermore, Gentiles are not grafted into the nation Israel as Gentiles.  The only way Gentiles can become a part of the nation Israel is by conversion to the Law of Moses and ceremonial circumcision.  The Gentiles in the Olive Tree remain Gentiles, even though they have been grafted in.  Thus the Olive Tree cannot be Israel.

While at the Pre-Trib Conference, and before I spoke to the study group about this issue, I wanted to discuss it with Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who has done a lot of work on Jewish studies, including his major book on Israelology.  He reviewed this material, and made an interesting suggestion.  He pointed out that since the Jews in the end time “will be grafted into their own olive tree,” this shows that the Jews possess the Olive Tree, and therefore the Olive Tree is not identical to the Jews or Israel.  This further strengthens the argument that the Olive Tree is not Israel.

The Olive Tree is the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel

If the Olive Tree is not the Church and it is not Israel, what is it?  The Olive Tree is a tertiam quid, a third entity, in this whole series of relationships.  Some have suggested it should be called the Abrahamic Covenant, and that approximates a good definition.  It comes close to what is involved here.  Some say it’s the position of spiritual blessing, and that also comes close to the truth.  I would suggest that a good working definition of the Olive Tree is that it is the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel, and each of those terms has meaning.

Paul elsewhere speaks of the Commonwealth of Israel, and I believe the Olive Tree could well be understood to be the spiritual commonwealth of Israel.  In the context of his description of unsaved Gentiles, Paul says in Ephesians. 2:

11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

That is a very stinging rebuke of unsaved Gentiles.  The Scriptures say some pretty hard things about unsaved Jewish people, but nothing comes close, I think, to this description of unsaved Gentiles, “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope and without God in the world.”  Did you know that you, if you are a Gentile, were an alien before you received the Lord?  But in Christ, we have been brought near to the Commonwealth of Israel, and it is indeed spiritual.  Let us consider further these distinct terms of our working definition: the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel.

The Olive Tree is Spiritual, Composed of Righteous, Born Again People

In contrast to the nation Israel, composed of believers and unbelievers, the Olive Tree is spiritual, because only righteous, born again, blood bought believers are in the Olive Tree, whether Jews or Gentiles.  Nobody else is in it.  Unsaved Gentiles are not in the Olive Tree.  Unsaved Jews do not remain in the Olive Tree.  Only born again believers are in the Olive Tree.

The Olive Tree is a Commonwealth, with Allegiance to the King of the Jews

The word the Apostle uses for commonwealth is “politeiva” (politeias), akin to our politics, people-hood or nationhood.  Through the blood of Israel’s Messiah (Christ), we Gentiles who were once aliens, have been made nigh (near) to the Commonwealth of Israel.  It appears that what Paul is describing as the Commonwealth of Israel is very similar to what he describes in more detail as the Olive Tree.

Furthermore, the Olive Tree is the Commonwealth of Israel, because Gentiles who have been attached (grafted in) to the Olive Tree owe allegiance to Israel’s Book (the Bible), Israel’s God, and Israel’s Messiah.  It is similar to the British Commonwealth, in which the people of Canada and Australia are not actually citizens of England, but owe allegiance to the Queen, and have a special relationship with the British people.  We Gentiles who have trusted in Jesus the Messiah, have a special relationship with Israel, its people and Land, and have sworn allegiance to the King of the Jews.

My conviction, then, is that the Olive Tree is none other than the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel.

Gentile Believers Must Recognize They are Grafted In Among the Natural Branches

In addition to our special relationship to Israel, we Gentiles who have been grafted in to the Olive Tree by faith in Christ among the natural branches, have a special relationship to the Jewish believers in Christ, who are the natural branches.  The tragedy is that the two kinds of branches in the Olive Tree (Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ) have such a hard time worshipping our Lord together.  What a powerful testimony we would have to the unsaved world if we could find a way to be seated together in earthly places, as we have been positionally “seated together in heavenly places.”

Gentile believers also have a special relationship with the revived nation of Israel.  To some Christians, Israel has no more significance than Uganda or Pakistan.  But if we understand our role in the Olive Tree, we see that we are in the Commonwealth of Israel, and everything about Israel is important to us:  its history, archaeology, politics, preservation and prophecy.  Nothing about the Land of the Bible should be foreign to us, as the time of the return of the Messiah draws ever nearer, when Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, will be a prime focus of the Lord’s Millennial reign on earth.

Boast Not against the Branches

How ominous and prophetic is the command the Apostle Paul issues to the Roman Christians, when he warns them, “boast not against the branches.  But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, “The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.”

Why would Gentile believers boast against the unsaved Jewish branches?  Amazingly, they would boast that the Jews were broken off, so that the Gentiles could replace them.  This is the origin of Replacement Theology, which blossomed so greatly early in church history, and continues unabated until today.  As it is understood today, the largely Gentile Church has replaced the Israel of the Old Testament.  Indeed, the Church is the new, improved and enlarged Israel.  This has become the predominant theological view in most Christian circles, and is also found in evangelical circles, as well.  The Lord, however, condemns this boasting against the branches as something that is abhorrent to Him.

Provoke to Jealousy

One of the responsibilities that Gentiles who believe in Christ have toward the nation Israel is to provoke them to jealousy, as we read in Romans 11.  We must admit we have not done a very good job.  Some have said, rather than provoking the Jews to jealousy, we have mostly just provoked the Jews.  But when a Jewish person sees Gentile believers in Christ, his reaction is supposed to be, “What is that Gentile, that goy, doing with my God, my Bible and my Messiah?  I want them.”  The good part about it is that we can all have them.  But I fear that we have not live our lives in such a way that it would cause many Jewish people to be provoked to jealousy.

Understanding of The Olive Tree is Essential to Biblical Ecclesiology & Eschatology

As stated as the outset, the Olive Tree has been an enigma to Bible interpreters for most of the church age, and is often ignored more than explored.  My conviction is that the Olive Tree is the Spiritual Commonwealth of Israel.  It does not detract from the unique features of the Church or Israel, but it is a special entity created by God.  Just as we need to find our proper relationship to the Church and Israel, we also must relate in an obedient manner with reference to the Olive Tree.  Anything less would be intentional blindness to the revealed Word of God.

There is also a serious problem about attempting to do prophetic study with an attitude that ignores the teachings of the Olive Tree and leans toward an anti-Semitic or anti-Israel position.  There are wonderful prophecies specifically about the Church in the Scriptures, including the imminent Rapture, the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Marriage of the Lamb, the reigning with Christ in the Millennium, and the New Jerusalem.  However, most of the volume of prophecy in the Bible has to do with the future destiny of Israel, such as Preservation in the Diaspora, the Perpetual Remnant, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the National Reconciliation with Messiah Jesus, the Restoration of Israel in preparation for and during the Millennium, and the New Jerusalem.

If we do not understand Israel or the Olive Tree, we will be prone to make many errors in interpretation of Bible Prophecy.  Sadly, this is what has happened in much of church history, in the development of Replacement Theology, Amillennialism, and, more recently, Progressive Dispensationalism.  It is only the Apostolic premillennial, literal interpretation of the Word that recognizes the Church, Israel and the Olive Tree, and their rightful position in the plan of God.

Posted with permission of the author

Thomas S. McCall Th.D.

Some Artwork selections by Daniel E Woodhead

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Has The Church Replaced The Nation Israel?

 Replacement Theology



Replacement Theology, an Introduction

Daniel E. Woodhead, Ph.D.

There is a heretical concept within Christianity accepted by many so-called “Christian” groups. It is characterized as heretical because it is nowhere to be found in Scripture and contradicts Scripture. Heresy is defined herein as those who are in error [1] and are so through “intentional distortions or denials of that truth”[2] as they “place their own desires above the fellowship of the church” (see Gal. 5:20; Titus 3:10).[3] This is not to suggest that all who embrace replacement theology are in the type of heresy that makes them unbelievers in Christ. Indeed there are believers in Christ that are biblically ignorant and consequently do not see God’s divine purposes and providence in protecting the Nation of Israel. But a normal reading of the Bible shows us there are verses in the Old Testament clearly testifying that God loves the Jews (for example Leviticus 26).Nevertheless it is important to understand how it worked as an impediment to their return to the Land as well as setting the expectation, for some that their return to the Land would never happen. Some thought it would happen perhaps in the Millennial Kingdom but it was generally thought that there would be no return to a sovereign Jewish State before that time. Those that do not accept a Millennial Kingdom, even though it is clearly stated six times in Revelation chapter twenty, reject the Jews ever having a homeland. Replacement Theology and its general hatred of the Jews gave rise to significant persecutions culminating with the Nazi Holocaust. In the end, this actually provided the impetus for them to have a homeland again.

Both Jews and Gentiles populated the early Church for the first two hundred eighty years while the headquarters was located at Jerusalem. James, the Lord’s half-brother, was the first bishop of Jerusalem and presided over the first worldwide Church Council. At that time the issue of Gentiles coming into the Church gave rise to a dispute over whether the Gentiles needed to become Jewish first and then accept Christ. This, of course, would require the males to be circumcised and keep the Law. It was decided that the Gentiles did not have to keep the Law and therefore neither did anybody else in order to experience the salvation that Christ provided. It was further determined that the freedom that was in Christ provided for one to follow the Law, keep the Jewish holidays, and in general follow the Jewish Temple culture if they desired to do so. It was not obligatory, just optional.

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Christianity Has Not Replaced the Nation Israel


Replacement Theology

Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens 1610

Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens 1610

There is a heretical concept within Christianity accepted by many so-called “Christian” groups. It is characterized as heretical because it is nowhere to be found in Scripture and contradicts Scripture. In fact there are verses in the Old Testament clearly testifying that God loves the Jews (for example Leviticus 26). Nevertheless it is important to understand how it worked as an impediment to their return to the Land as well as setting the expectation, for some that their return to the Land would never happen. Some thought it would happen perhaps in the Millennial Kingdom but it was generally thought that there would be no return to a sovereign Jewish State before that time. Those that do not accept a Millennial Kingdom clearly stated six times in Revelation chapter twenty reject the Jews ever having a homeland. Replacement Theology and its general hatred of the Jews gave rise to significant persecutions culminating with the Nazi Holocaust. In the end, this actually provided the impetus for them to have a homeland again.

Both Jews and Gentiles populated the early Church for the first two hundred eighty years while the headquarters was located at Jerusalem. James the Lord’s half-brother was the first bishop of Jerusalem and presided over the first world wide Church Council. At that time the issue of Gentiles coming into the Church gave rise to a dispute over whether the Gentiles needed to become Jewish first and then accept Christ. This of course would require the males to be circumcised and keep the Law. It was decided that the Gentiles did not have to keep the Law and therefore neither did anybody else in order to experience the salvation that Christ provided. It was further determined that the freedom that was in Christ provided for one to follow the Law, keep the Jewish holidays, and in general follow the Jewish Temple culture if they desired to do so. It was not obligatory just optional.

As the Church grew in the early years many Gentiles came in and Jews were converted as well. The Roman civil authorities persecuted both groups. This was partially carried out due to the Bar Cochba incident and because the Christians were considered a sect of Judaism. There did not seem to be any significant disputes between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ in the early Church. The Jews who did not recognize Christ as their Messiah did not accept the Jews who became Christians, or the Church in general as a valid expression of God’s outworking. One exception to this was Gamaliel a Pharisee and teacher of the Jewish Law. He said, “if this new Christianity is of God it will flourish and cannot be stopped” (Acts 5: 39).

When the Roman Emperor Constantine issued his Edict of Milan (commonly called the Edict of Toleration, 313 A.D.) it ended the Christian persecution and set the stage for Christianity being merged with the state. [i] It would not happen during his reign but in the reign of his second successor Theodosius I. On February 27, 380 A.D. he published the so-called “Edict of Thessalonica” (decree “Cunctos populos”, Codex Theodosianus xvi.1.2) and ordered that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Christian faith).

We desire that all peoples subject to Our benign Empire shall live under the same religion that the Divine Peter, the Apostle, gave to the Romans, and which the said religion declares was introduced by himself, and which it is well known that the Pontiff Damascus, and Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, embraced; that is to say, in accordance with the rules of apostolic discipline and the evangelical doctrine, we should believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute a single Deity, endowed with equal majesty, and united in the Holy Trinity. We order all those who follow this law to assume the name of Catholic Christians, and considering others as demented and insane, we order that they shall bear the infamy of heresy; and when the Divine vengeance which they merit has been appeased, they shall afterwards be punished in accordance with Our resentment, which we have acquired from the judgment of Heaven.

Dated at Thessalonica, on the third of the Kalends of March, during the Consulate of Gratian, Consul for the fifth time, and Theodosius.[ii]

He was essentially saying everyone but Christians are demented, insane and will be punished. He directed this punishment at the Jews and encouraged others to do the same. So from this point on we have early Church fathers expressing the same vehemence toward the Jews.

This forced all members of the Church at Rome to become Christians. Since Christianity is based upon personal faith and being chosen by God, false professions of faith to avoid death threats were detrimental to the purity of the professing Church at Rome. The result was a severe paganization of the Christian Church. The group at Rome became populated with pagans and grew significantly in numbers. This growth caused this Church to think of themselves as more significant than other regional churches. They called themselves the Roman Catholic Church and declared their headquarters at Rome.

This merging of Church with State brought the Dark Ages upon the world and many unbiblical practices entered the previously pure, but persecuted, Church. Some of these are: baptismal regeneration; clergy celibacy; The Eucharist (Transubstantiation), indulgences, Mary as Co-Mediatrix; penance and others.

As a result many in the Christian community at large began to speak out against the Jews. One such individual was John Chrysostom. At Antioch in 387 A.D. he preached eight virulent sermons against the Jews.[iii] He was characterized, as being prone to an oratorical style, which was elaborate, sinewy, and incisive.[iv] The following is a quote from one of those fiery messages:

Don’t be surprised if I’ve called the Jews wretched, for truly they are wretched and miserable since they spurned the numerous blessings which came into their hands from heaven, and they took great pains to throw them away. Tell me, if someone had killed your son, could you bear to lay eyes on them? Could you bear to listen to their greeting? Wouldn’t you avoid them as you would an evil spirit, as the devil himself? The Jews killed your Master’s Son—do you have the effrontery to go with them to the same place? The one who was killed has honoured you to the point of making you his brother or sister and co-heir, whereas you treat him with dishonour to the point of honoring those who killed the Master and crucified the Son, and worshipping in their company twenty during the festivals, and going to their impure places, and entering their unclean doors, and taking part in the table of demons. (I’m persuaded to call the fast of the Jews ‘the table of demons’ because they killed God.)[v]

In light of the above quote it is not surprising that the Jews took on the label within the early church of “Christ Killers.” This is interesting since it makes obvious the Church’s faulty understanding of the Scriptures. Christ made it very clear; He laid down His life willingly (John 6:51; 10:15 etc.). God Himself was the perpetrator of this event not the Jews. People did not read the Scriptures accurately or completely then just as they don’t today. If they did, they would never as genuine Christians ever have developed Replacement Theology. Perhaps the earliest inkling of this heresy came from Ignatius of Antioch (70-107 AD) who suggested that the Church is the New Israel.[vi]

Chrysostom’s contemporary, Augustine (354-430 AD), was somewhat more restrained toward the Jews. He affirmed Paul’s teaching in Romans that we have a duty to love the Jews but he shared the view of other Church Fathers. He thought that Judas was the image of the Jewish people. From Augustine came the theory that the Jews are a “witness-people” destined to live as testimony to both evil and Christian truth, but who were not to be killed, for “like Cain they bore a sign Let them live among us, but let them suffer and be continually humiliated.” [vii] He may have said they should not be persecuted but by his comments he implicitly endorsed their persecution.

Though opposed to mass murder of Jews, France’s Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 AD) declared that they were “a race who had not God for their father, but were of the devil.” Following the custom of theologians of his day, he had taken a Scripture (John 8:44) and applied it to the whole Jewish people for all time. Perhaps the concept of Replacement Theology that was the strongest incentive for future generations to persecute the Jews came from the Protestant German Reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD). He originally hoped that they would accept his form of the faith, even initially praising their contribution to Christianity. However, when he did not succeed in converting the Jews, his attitude changed dramatically. In his work Concerning the Jews and Their Lies (published 1542) Luther wrote:

“All the blood kindred of Christ burn in hell, and they are rightly served, even according to their own words they spoke to Pilate. Verily a hopeless, wicked, venomous and devilish thing is the existence of these Jews, who for fourteen hundred years have been, and still are, our pest, torment and misfortune. They are just devils and nothing more.” Firstly, their synagogues should be set on fire Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any more Fifthly, passport and travelling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the Jews Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from usury Seventhly, let the young and strong Jews and Jewesses be given the flail, the axe, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle, and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses We ought to drive the rascally lazy bones out of our system Therefore away with them. To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may all be free of this insufferable devilish burden – the Jews.” [viii]

In a sermon given shortly before his death he called for the immediate expulsion of all Jews from Germany. This would be implemented in a later period during the greatest persecution the Jews had on this earth to date, the Nazi Holocaust under Adolph Hitler.


Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.

[i] Sheldon, Henry C. History of the Christian Church Vol I The Early Church, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA 01961-3473, 1988 pp. 331; 379-395


[ii] Bettenson, Henry ed. Documents of the Christian Church, London: Oxford University Press, 1943, pp. 31


[iii] Barnavi, Eli. A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People-From the Time of the Patriarchs to the Present, New York: Schocken Books, 1992, 70.


[iv] Britannica, Encyclopedia. A New Survey of Universal Knowledge, Chicago: William Benton, Publisher, 1962, Book 5,pp. 666.


[v] Allen, Pauline; Mayer, Wendy. John Chrysostom. London: Routledge,

2000 (accessed 10 July 2008) available at http://World Warw.questia.com/Index.jsp; Internet, 164.


6 Michael, Robert. Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p. 112.


[vii] Flannery, Edward H., The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemtism, published 1985

By Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Boulevard, Mahwah, N.J. 07430, U.S.A. pp. 52-53


[viii] Luther, Martin, Concerning the Jews and Their Lies, reprinted in Talmage, Disputation and Dialogue, pp.34-36, as cited by Brown, pp.14-15. Brown, Michael L., Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People, published 1992 by Destiny Image Publishers, P.O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257, U.S.A


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