We live in perilous times. It seems every where you look our world is pulling apart at the seams. In all facets of human culture from politics to economics, education, law, morality, etc. – the empirical evidence points to the fact that human society is crumbling and all of our best attempts to fix it are meeting with failure. In the waning light of Christendom it is becoming increasingly clear that the Ekklesia of Yeshua has failed yet again in its most basic mission to be Salt and as such has been cast out and trampled under foot by Men (Matthew 5:13). Instead the world is looking to its institutions to save it; with the State acting as Father and the University as mother, worshiping at the altar of Human Progress. In the face of this it is easy for those who are clinging to an idealized Christian Society, as is prevalent here in the West, to get discouraged by the obvious disfavor they experience because of their faith.
The coping mechanism I hear most often from those in the American Church is the misapplication of covenant promises made to the Nation of Israel, used to lay claim on a peace that is not promised to them during the Time of the Gentiles. This is itself a form of the rebellion for which YHVH called out His people in the days of the Prophets. It is the charge which He lays against the false prophets and the priests in Jeremiah 6:13-14 when He says through Jeremiah that they attended to the brokenness of the People only superficially, promising them a peace that was not.
The root of this is two fold. First, American Christianity has flourished for more than two centuries without facing the violent persecution which is normative for the rest of the world. As such professing Christians in the West have a difficult time reconciling the experience of a world gone mad with their notion of how God is supposed to do things.
Secondly, Christendom – aka the Theocratic notion of a State that is intricately interwoven with the Christian religion – is itself built in part on the false premise of Supercessionism which proclaims the that the Gentiles have replaced Israel in the Covenant with YHVH.
It is not as if Christians, including those who are very bright and well-read, have an animus against Jewish people, per se. Rather, the defeat and obsolescence of Judaism at the hands of a triumphant and superseding Christianity is embedded into the core ideas of most Christian theologies. To root out supersessionism requires questioning core ideas and commitments, rethinking and re-configuring the very canonical narrative that supports most Christian theology.
As the quote above from Rabbi Leman alludes to, one of the reasons for the acceptance of the supercessionist premise is that it is intrinsically tied to the prevailing theological systems of popular Christianity; the result of often well intended (and sometimes not so well intended) attempts to understand the Divine Narrative working from the interpreter’s context and moving backwards to the text. This often overlooked hermeneutical flaw, well intended or not, causes the one employing it to eisegete the text because the starting point is always the conclusion which the interpreter desired to reach to begin with. Rather, the Revelation of YHVH is ongoing in the Biblical Text, the latter never contradicts the former and thus a proper understanding of the Divine Narrative can only be achieved when one starts at the beginning and works their way forward; exegeting the text and allowing it to speak to their context.
Thus in a Messianic theology the key to understanding the dynamic tension between the Nation of Israel and the Gentile Church, is that while these two are distinct with regard to the time in which YHVH has chosen to primarily work through them they are none the less two branches which grow out of the same tree (Romans 11:17-36). More specifically, the Gentile Ekklesia is the branch engrafted into the stump of Jesse through the Messiah and as such is a recipient of the Covenant promises only in so much as it is united to the Jewish People through their Messiah.
The fleshing out of this is something that requires more space than this particular post will allow, but for the moment my point is this – while the promises of YHVH to the Nation of Israel reveal His character and thus desire for all His People, they in no way should be misconstrued to mean that the Gentile Ekklesia will experience the same peace promised to the Nation of Israel after the time of the Gentiles is completed (Joel 2/ Luke 21:22-24). In fact according to Romans 11, the Gentile Ekklesia will be removed for the same reason that the Natural branch, the Jewish Ekklesia, was first removed – Fruitlessness stemming from a collective Apostasy (Jeremiah 2:19) – so that YHVH might fulfill His promise to His Chosen People to be faithful to the thousandth generation of those who love Him and keep His commands (Exodus 20:1-6/ Revelation 20:1-6).
So what is the covenant promise for the Gentile Ekklesia of the Last Days? Our promise during this time of the Gentiles is that in this world we will have many troubles, but the Messiah has overcome the world (John 16:33) and through the Holy Spirit Messiah will be with us until the end of the Age (Matthew 28:20); and so we shall be with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). For the Follower of the Way of the Cross it is this, and only this, which is the ground of our true Hope.