The Gentiles have been joined to Israel through the cross of the Messiah, making the two into one body. The body in question is the new assembly; the combined Jewish/Gentile communities under the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. The communities are the new Israel. As such, these communities have not so much replaced Israel as continued it in a new administration and form. Yes, the communities are the new Israel. Their form, government, and history remains tied to its Israelite roots.
Yet this does not necessarily mean the ties remain to the Land of Israel. If that was the case, the assemblies would have ceased to exist when Israel was run underfoot by the Romans in A.D. 70. Even if it survived that fiasco, it certainly would have been dealt a fatal blow after the total destruction of the land and the total deportation of the Jewish people after the Bar Kokhba Revolt in AD 135. Jews were forbidden entry to Jerusalem after that date. Israel no longer held Jews. Yet the Jews, both in their Talmudic and Christian manifestation, survived.
Yet the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel is views as a benchmark by both groups today. Understandably, the Jews regard it as significant since it gives them both a homeland and a means of defense against another holocaust being committed against them as aliens in another land. Christians, at least those in the “pop” Dispensationalist camp, regard it as a precursor if not a true fulfillment of prophecy. (Most find at least one of these prophecies Romans 11:21-24, which I have already at least cast some doubt on in previous posts.)
Yet being joined to Israel has very little to do with the Land of Israel. This point was driven home to me after I had some interaction with the Messianic teacher, Eliyahu ben David, at his website tsiyon.org. In discussing his absolutely marvelous exposition of John 14:1-7 here, I had made an application that split the governance of Israelites to the Land and the Gentile ecclesia to the rest of the planet. He accurately skewered that line of reasoning as follows:
As to your summary of my teaching on this particular nugget, it is pretty good, although I need to make one clarification that I think will help you as you progress through the other programs. You said; “These [governing] groups [established by Messiah], whether Israel recognized it at that time or not, were the true governing bodies over the Land.” This would be 100% correct if you had said; “These [governing] groups [established by Messiah], whether Israel recognized it at that time or not, were the true governing bodies over the NATION.”
This may look like nit picking at first, but actually there is a very big difference between governing a “land” i.e. country and governing a NATION. A country has territorial boundaries. A nation in the Biblical sense does not. Instead, a nation is a group of people descended from one common ancestor and in practical terms can also include others who have joined themselves to that core ethnic group. The nation of Israel is called that because these are the descendants of the patriarch, Israel/Jacob. By its very nature Israel remains a nation whether gathered in the land of Israel or scattered throughout the earth. The government that Messiah established was over the PEOPLE Israel in covenant with YHWH, no matter where they may live.
…The ecclesia and the “assembly” or “congregation” of Israel are the same in the OT and the NT. There is no approved separate gentile body. Gentile believers are to be grafted into Israel, not into something else. Actually, the “church” maintaining itself as a separate group from believing Israel is in rebellion against the kingdom as established by Messiah.
Now his pen name is questionable (though someone who writes under the name Kwai Chang Caine can hardly throw stones in that regard), but Eliyahu ben David is dead on in his observation above. Indeed, his entire radio series on the Kingdom is well worth the time to download, listen, and study. It has helped crystallize my thoughts on this subject.
He is correct, yet only in regards to the people of Israel. Normally, in the ancient world, one could not separate a people from the land of their origin. Once the people were so uprooted and disbursed from the land they regarded as home they soon ceased to exist as a separate and distinct people. The Persians and Babylonians knew this. That is why they took the people from the lands they conquered and disbursed them throughout the Empires. Soon those people intermarried with the normal occupants of the lands in which they resided and blended into the culture. The lands of their occupation then defined them. In time, they became good Persians and Babylonians instead of Philistines and Egyptians.
Not so the Israelites. Despite deportation (and even some cases of intermarriage) if anything, during the Exile they became even better Israelites. Instead of blending into the Melting Pot of Pesia, they became more solidly Jewish and Israelite than ever before.
The Land did not define them. Even the Temple did not define them. It was the Word of God that defined them. It formed them and maintained them as a distinct people even in the midst of a foreign land. They retained their distinct word, their distinct behavior, their distinct beliefs. In short, they maintained their culture.
For that is what we have been grafted into as Gentiles. We are part and parcel of Israel as a nation; a people, and ethnic group. (How I could have missed this, since I have been translating “nation” as “ethnic group” in the CGV for over two years now, is beyond me. Sometimes we can miss the implications of even what we write ourselves.) That is precisely what we have become as the Assemblies of the Anointed, the Messiah. We are those who are the renewed People of God. As such, part of our mission is to simply continue to be those People. We must continue to carry on their history, their religion, and even more markedly, their culture, their ethics, and their behavior. Just as they were God’s special people, so too are we.
Symbolically, we crossed into the borders of that Nation when our household was baptized. That act represented our crossing the Jordan into the nation of that People. Now we are part of the nation of Israel, whether we reside in the land so named or not. Once we were not a People; now we are the People of God. As such, we are part of a culture that will abide throughout the ages.
It then behooves us to define just what that culture is.