Most of us have been taught that there is a difference between Jew and Gentile. Some have even noticed how Apostle John constantly spoke of “the Jews” in a way that pitted them as the adversary. But wait – weren’t Messiah and his disciples Jews themselves?
When we hear the word Israel, we generally associate that with the Jews and according to the churches, those were the original “chosen people” before our god replaced them with His new people – the church.
So that’s the basic understanding most of the church world has today, but now the question – is that accurate? As we do in all our studies, we’re going to pick through the Bible and study these things out and try our best to trade in some of the confusion we were born into… for revelation.
From the beginning of the Bible, YHWH dealt with man, and we see His focus was initially with a single lineage. First it was Adam, later it was Noah, eventually Abraham was called out of Babylon. Next, His son Isaac became the focus and then the honor birthright landed in his son Jacob’s lap. From here, this tree grew branches!
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and he had twelve sons. These twelve sons became twelve tribes, and from this point forward, the people of YHWH were simply called “Israel,” the “House of Israel,” or similar. So the “chosen people” are the ones who descended from one of these twelve tribes.
Now, at this point let’s make one thing clear: Israel describes all of the descendants of twelve different tribes of people – not just one or even two of the twelve tribes, but ALL of them. Also, to be abundantly clear: Israel is a PEOPLE. What Israel is NOT is a land mass in the Middle East. Israel is not a “Jewish State.” When we learn what a “Jew” is later, the distinction will become a lot clearer.
Oh, and by the way – all of this history from Adam to the twelve tribes of Israel was recorded in the book of Genesis.
Speaking of Genesis, in chapter 10 we find the first appearance of the word “Gentiles,” and this is another of the four terms we want to look at in this study. So what does that word mean, and who are they? Well, “gentile” simply means “nation.” By implication it means nations other than Israel. So to Israel, everybody else in the world is Gentile.
Near the beginning of our Bibles, this line between Israel and the Gentiles was very easy to draw. You were either one or the other, and there was little room for in between although conversion WAS a possibility. As we’re going to discover a bit later, that line eventually became IMPOSSIBLY blurry!
Now let’s look at who the Jews are. This is where things start to become a little bit tricky. To begin, we’re going to jump back into a little more Bible history.
It starts with a promise that YHWH made to Israel – that if they broke their covenant with Him, that he would scatter them among the nations:
Deuteronomy 4:27-28 And YHWH shall scatter you among the nations, and you shall be left few in number among the heathen, where YHWH shall lead you. And there you shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
Later, after the reign of King Solomon, the people of Israel were divided into two kingdoms – a northern kingdom consisting of ten of the tribes and a southern kingdom consisting of the remaining two. The ten tribes called themselves Israel, while the two tribes called themselves Judah. We can read about this division in the first book of Kings.
Anyway, as the story continues, the people were living in disobedience to the Laws YHWH gave us, and as such He sent Prophets to call them to repentance. Naturally, the call went unheeded and judgment followed.
The Assyrians conquered the ten tribes of Israel enslaving and deporting all those who were not killed in battle, and those people were scattered throughout different lands. History has no record of where they or their descendants ended up, however within the span of 2,700 years, it’s reasonable to conclude that their descendants could be, and most likely are, pretty much EVERYWHERE. But, we’ll get back to this point later!
This was the judgment of the northern kingdom, but Judah’s fate was different. They spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity after which, they were allowed to return to the Promised Land. It was during the time that JU-DAH was in captivity that they began calling themselves Jews. So a Jew is a descendent of either the tribe of Judah or Benjamin.
While Judah was in captivity in Babylon, they came to terms with the fact that it was a judgment upon them for their disobedience to the Law of YHWH. For this reason, they took steps to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again.
The Jews took it upon themselves to elaborate upon the Laws that they had broken, and to fortify those laws to make them even harder to break. If the Law of YHWH told us not to work on Sabbath, their new and improved laws would go to great lengths to explain what constitutes work, how far we could travel, and so on and so forth.
Eventually, these “fence laws” that they created plus the mysticism they learned from the Babylonians became a religion unto itself filling volumes of books with commandments and traditions of men which, in many cases, led them to violate the original Laws of YHWH they were designed to help man avoid breaking. Today, this religion is called Rabbinical Judaism, and a practitioner of this religion is called a “Jew.”
So, the word “Jew” has TWO meanings. One refers to a descendent of the kingdom of Judah which represented two of the twelve tribes of Israel. The other refers to a person who practices the traditions and commandments (and perhaps the mysticism) of Rabbinical Judaism.
Back to the Book of John in the Bible – remember how he spoke often of “the Jews” as if they were the enemy? This should seem strange seeing as how both he and the Messiah for that matter WERE descendants of the kingdom of Judah! But he was using the term describing the practice of a religion which pitted those people in opposition of the path they were walking. They were ALL Jews by heritage, but John was NOT submitting himself to the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees and therefore was not a religious “Jew.”
Back to Israel:
So, going back to Israel now, those ten tribes were lost, right? This is true, but we know that they WON’T be lost forever. The Scriptures in our Bibles assure us that those ten tribes are still out there and will ultimately be reunited with Judah completing the nation of Israel once again. Here is the word of prophecy given to Ezekiel on the matter:
Ezekiel 37:15-23 The word of YHWH came again unto me, saying, “Moreover, you son of man, take one stick, and write upon it, ‘For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions.’ then take another stick, and write upon it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.’ And join them one to another into one stick, and they shall become one in your hand. And when the children of your people shall speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by this?’ Say to them, ‘This says YHWH Elohim; “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in my hand.”’ And the sticks whereon you write shall be in your hand before their eyes. And say to them, ‘This says YHWH Elohim, “Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, where they have gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all. and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions. but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their Elohim.”’”
So for the last 2,700 years, the ten lost tribes of Israel, or as Messiah called them – “The lost sheep of the house of Israel” are all over the world mingled with the Gentiles. There is no way to know who’s who aside from seeing how they respond to the Word of YHWH and how they faithfully obey His commandments.
Okay, so our last group of people we want to identify in the Bible is called the church. To understand who they are, we’re going to do a simple word study and instead of trying to decide for ourselves what we THINK the church is, we’re going to look at the Apostles’ understanding of the term. After all, if anybody knows what the “church” is supposed to be, I suspect it’d be the guys we believe founded the thing, right?
When we look up the word “church” in a concordance of our New Testament, we see that it comes from a Greek word pronounced “Ekklesia.” That word means a “meeting” or more appropriately, a “congregation.”
Now, most of our Bibles translate the Old Testament from Hebrew and the New Testament from Greek. As such, even in English there seems to be a significant difference of terminologies used between the two.
However, in the days of Messiah and the Apostles, they used a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint which is still around today. When we dig into that, we discover something surprising: that the same Greek word we translate into “church” in our New Testaments today was used in this ‘Bible of the Apostles’ almost 80 times to refer to none other than Israel! So when we talk about the church in the Bible, we aren’t talking bout something that is new or recently created or Gentile or practicing a new religion, but rather, we’re talking about an assembly of people from the same twelve tribes born in Genesis!
Before we close this study, let’s review the vocabulary one more time as it’s really impossible to understand the Bible – particularly the New Testament without it:
Israel is a word that describes the chosen people of YHWH. They are divided into twelve tribes, only two of which are represented by the term “Jew.” What Israel is NOT is a Jewish country in the Middle East.
The word “Jew” means two different things. It can be a descendent of one of the two tribes of the southern kingdom (Judah or Benjamin), OR it can be a person who practices the religion of Rabbinical Judaism.
Gentiles are all the peoples of the world and all their nations other than Israel. The ten lost tribes of Israel are scattered throughout and mingled with Gentiles all over the world, and most of them have no idea of who they are.
Lastly, the church is just another word for an assembly of the people of Israel. The church is NOT a building or a group of people practicing Christianity.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of the different peoples mentioned in the Bible, go back and read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and suddenly the Scriptures should have a radically different and much clearer meaning.