The Teaching of Messiah & Israel

(excerpted from Sam Nadler’s book The Israel Factor)

Many non-Messianic Jewish people today still wrongly think that it is not possible for a Jewish person to believe in Yeshua and continue to be a present-tense Jew. To many, therefore, the term “Messianic Jew” (a Jewish person who believes Yeshua is the Messiah) appears to be a contradiction in terms. Sadly, many of the early church fathers held the same opinion.

Factoring Israel In…

In his letter to the Magnesians, Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35-108), the third bishop of Antioch and contributor to the writings of the apostolic fathers, wrote: “It is absurd to profess Jesus Christ, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity, that so every tongue which believeth might be gathered together to God.”

Ignatius’s statements stand in direct contradiction to Paul’s teaching in Romans 11, which states that the “root” – that is, the promises of Messiah given to the fathers – supports the believers, rather than the Gentile believers supporting the root (Romans 11:18). How is our teaching about Messiah impacted when we factor Israel into the equation?

Messiah’s first coming required the Jewish people in God’s Plan

Messiah as Redeemer

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He will bruise you on the head and you will bruise Him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15).

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

The Fulfillment of the Promise

Messiah could not come to this earth and provide redemption for sins through His death unless a Jewish people existed. But you may ask, since God loves the world, wouldn’t He send a Redeemer even if there weren’t any Israel? This may seem to make since, but we find no such teaching in Scripture. In reading through the prophets, there is no asterisk with a footnote saying, “If the Jewish people just happen not to exist, I will continue My plan with another group of people.” This would be irrational, for, as noted, the only covenant of redemption that God ever made for humanity was made with Israel.

The first promise regarding God’s plan of redemption in the Messiah is found in Genesis 3:15. This passage speaks of the fact that God will send a “Seed” who will crush the enemy’s head, and that the instrument through whom this Seed will come will be a woman – in fact, she will be a Jewish virgin. This was understood and anticipated by the Jewish people and elaborated on in Isaiah 7:14. In Luke 1, we see the fulfillment of this promise:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David… The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Miriam; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Yeshua. 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; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:26 – 33 SN).

God’s Plan

In order to reign over everything else, Yeshua first has to reign over the house of Jacob. The word “Jacob” in this passage reinforces that Gabriel is referring specifically to the Jewish people. Replacement theologians claim that, in God’s plan, every biblical reference to Israel should now be understood as the Church, for, as they teach, “the Church has replaced Israel.”

These people would not refer to themselves as the “house of Jacob” for “Jacob” is seen as carnal, whereas “Israel” is seen as spiritual. However, the Bible does not read this way. Messiah will reign over literal Israel – that is, the house of Jacob! The house of Jacob requires that Israel be factored into the plan of God.

Messiah as Savior of the World

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Good News beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU” (Galatians 3:8 SN).

The blessings promised to the nations of the world were to come through the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3). The Jewish people (the natural seed of Abraham) must exist for these blessings to come to believers among the nations. As we see in the Galatians verse above, this was always the intention of God. However, God does not stop with His promise to Abraham.

The Savior’s Blessings

As we continue to read through Scripture, we see that He makes His promise even more specific. Not only will it have to come through Abraham, but it will have to come through Isaac, not Ishmael (Genesis 17:21), and through Jacob, not Esau (Genesis 25:23). All the way through Scripture, the seed of Abraham that will be a blessing to the nations is restricted to the Jewish people. The New Covenant reiterates this as well: “Through the fathers [i.e., the Jewish patriarchs] came the Messiah, who is God over all. Amen” (Romans 9:5 SN).

Throughout the Bible, we see that, out of necessity, there has to be a Jewish people for there to be a Savior of the world. In order for Yeshua to be the Savior of the world, He must first be the Messiah of Israel. If He is not the Jewish Messiah, He cannot be anybody’s Savior, because His only credentials to be the Savior of the world are those of the Messiah of Israel. As previously observed, for the nations, the blessings of the Savior of the world come as an extension of the New Covenant.

Messiah as the King of All

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between His feet, until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10).

In order for Yeshua to be anybody’s King, He first must be the King of the Jews, for these are His only prophesied credentials. Though it is clear throughout Scripture that the promised Messiah will be the King of all, (indeed the “King of kings” 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), Genesis 49:10 clearly states that this King must come through the line of Judah.

When Yeshua came, He was often called the “King of the Jews.”  At His birth, this is the title by which He was sought by the Gentile magi (Matthew 2:2). At His death, this is the inscription that hung above His head (John 19:19). Though translated “King of the Jews,” the phrase literally means “King of the Judeans,” referring to those from Judah. Yeshua came to earth as the Judean King, and the Jewish people were absolutely necessary in order for His first coming to take place. But for Him to be King over our lives, He must still be King of the Jews. Therefore, the Jewish people must be factored into the present plan of God.

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