One of those songs I recall singing in church as a youth begins like this:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness;
And all these things shall be added unto you,
(“Seek ye first”, by Karen Lafferty, 1971)
It is a good song taken directly from Scripture. This particular chorus is from Matthew 6:33, as rendered in the King James:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these thing shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)
Like so many things in my Christian upbringing, I do not recall a succinct explanation of this instruction by Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ). Perhaps it was assumed that we would absorb the meaning in our Sunday School classes or in our own study of the Bible. Even the Biblical instruction I received in my Christian school never included a full disclosure of what the Kingdom of God is, or a definition of righteousness. This is not to say that my Christian upbringing was without value; I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to the teachers, pastors, and counselors who labored lovingly to help me become a disciple of Jesus and to impart their love of the Word of God and the God of the Word. However, there were some holes in my education, particularly regarding the specifics of certain key terms in my Christian vocabulary.
Righteousness was one of those terms. Simply put, it is being right according to YHVH’s standards. Moses provides the details in the Torah. The rest of the Bible elaborates on that foundation, providing examples of how God’s people succeeded or failed in meeting those standards. When we get to the Apostolic Writings (New Testament), we see those standards demonstrated by the example of Yeshua, and then we find commentary by the Apostles. Consequently, even though I cannot recall anyone giving me a definition of righteousness when I was young, it was easy enough to figure out what Yeshua meant when He commanded us to seek it.
But then there is that problematic term, “Kingdom of God”. What exactly is that? The Bible tells me about the Kingdom of Israel and about the Kingdom of Heaven, but in my church upbringing it seldom occurred to me that the two might be the same. And in fact they are the same. Much Christian teaching has attempted to separate the two, but doing so leaves the Kingdom of God as nothing more than a nebulous, over-spiritualized concept. The Kingdom of Israel, on the other hand, is a concrete, definable, knowable entity, and all the people of God are part of it. It matters not whether they are Jewish or of Gentile background. The terms of the New (or Renewed) Covenant tell us that YHVH has executed this agreement only with the people of Israel and Judah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:8-11). Isaiah 56:4-8 explains that foreigners will join themselves to the Lord and come into His Temple, the house of prayer for all nations. Paul tells us how this will happen, explaining in Romans 11 how non-Jews are “grafted into” the olive tree of Israel along with Jews, and in Ephesians 2 how faith in Messiah Yeshua makes these former Gentiles part of the Commonwealth of Israel. As if there were any doubt, John records the proclamation of the angel at the end of this age that the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). With that kind of Scriptural foundation, no wonder the ancient carol proclaims, “Born is the King of Israel!”
Why, then, is there any question that Christians join with Jews as part of the Kingdom of Israel? It is understandable – and reprehensible – that a tendency of Christendom over the last 19 centuries has been to cut Jews out of the Kingdom. The term adopted of late to describe this trend is “Replacement Theology”. At its heart is the thought that because Jews do not recognize Yeshua of Nazareth as Messiah, they are no longer part of the Kingdom. It is true that Jews for the most part remain blind to Yeshua’s messianic identity, but the story is not yet over. Unbelief will turn to faith and blindness will transform into sight one day when Messiah is revealed. Until then, Jews and Christians alike await the advent of the same person: the Son of David Who will subdue all the nations and rule from Zion over the reconstituted Nation of Israel. The fact that our Jewish cousins do not yet recognize Messiah’s identity does not automatically disqualify them from the Kingdom.
But what if there were a tendency to consider non-Jews as something other than Israel? Would that, perhaps, be considered “Reverse Replacement Theology”? Such a construct would seek to establish Israel as a strictly Jewish entity, excluding everyone who is not a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Aside from the Scriptural issues with such an idea, there is this difficulty of tracing physical descent. It is true that the Jews of today are for the most part descended from the southern part of Israel known as Judah, but there is much of other nations mixed into Jewish lineage. It is also true that the seed of the ten “Lost Tribes” of the northern kingdom of Israel are mixed in the DNA of every nation on earth. At this point in history it is impossible to discern an individual’s genetic ancestry with any degree of certainty, which is why Paul advises this:
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (I Timothy 1:3-5 NASB)
The faith part is believing God that He will restore the entire nation of Israel just as He promised, and that in doing so He will bring salvation to all nations so that He does not have to destroy the entire earth. That, of course, is the root of righteousness: believing God, just as Abraham did (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:22-23). Moreover, we must believe as well that all who have faith in Messiah Yeshua are part of that nation of Israel, whether they are physical descendants of Abraham or not. If the Scripture is true, then any claim to the contrary is in fact a form of Replacement Theology.
This is a point Margot Crossing of Australia seeks to make in a recent article. As she explained to me, it is not as complete as she would like it to be, but it is good enough to get people thinking. Margot makes reference to the work of several scholars who have endeavored to trace the wanderings of the Ten Tribes. These are facts which flesh out our faith that YHVH has preserved the seed of the entire nation, and that through that seed He has drawn all nations into the invitation of reconciliation with Himself. I present her short article here not as a finished work, but as a necessary statement to provoke prayerful investigation of a matter of vital importance to all the people of YHVH in this day.
What, then, should we pray? Yeshua taught us that as well:
Pray, then, in this way: ”Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 NASB)
Now that we know what the Kingdom of God is, we understand that each time Christians have prayed this prayer over the centuries, they have joined with Jews in praying for the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.
If the church is full of the House of Israel, then is saying that the Jews are now “All Israel” replacement theology?
October 9, 2015
According to Steven M. Collins, Dr John Hulley and Yair Davidiy the descendants of the House of Israel, aka the northern kingdom, the ten lost tribes, and/or Ephraim went to areas including Assyrian, Armenia, Great Briton, Carthage, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, between the Capsicum and Black Seas and even the New World. They were known by names such as the Celts, Cimmerians, Khumri, Scythians, Parthians, Goths and Visigoths and Caucasians. They fled by foot or by sea through the ships of Tarshish. Sometimes they defeated the world powers of the day, as did Parthia twice with Rome.
Dr Avigdor Shachan documents their journeys into and through Afghanistan, China, and India, and even to Japan through Korea. Here they are known as Parthians, Pashtuns, Ch’iang Min, Mizos, Nagas, Karen, Lahu and other Hill tribe groups.
The reader will recognise that their locations, in many cases, were centres of Christianity for hundreds of years if not millennia – the apostles themselves stating that they were going to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. Paul refers to the gentiles (ethnos or nations) as fulfilling the prophecies of Hosea towards the House of Israel by becoming sons of the living God [see Romans 9:24-26 and Hosea 1:10 and 2:23], not to mention them becoming as the sands of the sea in their numerousness.
This writer is not denying the Jews the right to be part of the Israel of God as obviously many already are both historically and presently. However, the Jews are also fulfilling a role as the House of Judah for many are outside the covenant of Deuteronomy 18:18-19 by reason of their reliance on their Rabbis as the spokesmen for God in all matters from a Deuteronomy 17:8-12 perspective.
The Assyrian [or sometimes known as the Nestorian] Church of the East presided over a thousand year golden age right through the European dark ages. They had churches all across North Africa; the Silk Road into China and all around the southern borders of India. Historical documents attest to their ancestors being parts of the ten tribes of Israel. The Europeans churches contained the Cimmerians (Samarians), Caucasians and Goths, and Briton the Tribe of Dan and then the Celts, Khumri or Sons of Omri. Russia was strongly influenced by the Parthian and Scythian empires having already received the Tribe of Simeon. Christianity came to all these places as the recipients recognised the same one true God, the process of redemption through sacrifice and the good news of the awaited Messiah. They didn’t exhibit the post-Babylonian characteristics of Jewish synagogues, scribes and Pharisees, nor the thought that Rabbis held the place of God in decision making. Reliance upon written food and other customs as formulated at Yavneh in about 100 AD was not part of the House of Israel’s customs as they travelled throughout the nations. Worshiping at groves and being idol worshippers is closer to the reality, although remembering Yaweh and other biblical stories, such as the flood and Abraham and the twelve tribes and the exodus was kept in some cases.
If the Bible is true and Abraham’s descendants are to become as the sands of the sea or the stars of the heavens in that they cannot be numbered then the idea that the tribes of Israel have gone to the ends of the earth and intermingled, like yeast in dough, into all peoples is not too farfetched. If the apostles were then given the Great Commission to go the ends of the earth with this good news of the Messiah bringing redemption and a way back into the family of God then has God’s Grace been at work for the last two thousand years fulfilling prophecy. I say “Yes He has!”
Is the Church full of ancient Israelites? Historically, it is true. So, to say that only Jews are now “all Israel” is to deny this history of the House of Israel (and any and all Jews who also came into the new covenant). What is the church’s place in any end time scenario concerning Israel and our role in the unification with the House of Judah under one king?
The whole bible is not only a book about Jesus the Messiah, but also about a nation, Israel, which all people will become part of. Just as Jesus, Yeshua, looked into the scriptures and saw himself in the prophecies, we, as Israel, can look into the scriptures and use past patterns as blueprints for future scenarios.