(Webmaster’s note: Here’s an interesting excerpt from the article “Our Israel Roots” – found at the Church of Israel website.)
Envision for a moment this scenario: a man is driving alone on an unfamiliar highway in southern Missouri. He is attempting to find his way back to more familiar territory, but with spotty service, the GPS feature on his smartphone is rendered useless. He is a field adjustor for a local insurance agency and has temporarily lost his way.
Suddenly he spies a sign that reads CHURCH OF ISRAEL. Deciding that this is a precursor to civilization, he turns down the road indicated, in hopes of obtaining directions. Sure enough, he soon spies a woman out walking, and pulls up alongside her, hoping to get directions. He pulls up alongside her, and rolls down his window.
“M’am, could you possibly point me in the direction of Nevada, Missouri?” The woman smiles and nods, when suddenly on impulse, the man gives in to curiosity and interrupts her gesticulating with rapid-fire questions. What is the Church of Israel? Why do you call yourselves by such an odd name? Do you believe you are literally Israelites? And why in the world are you located out here, in the middle of nowhere?
Before the woman could answer the first question, the man thinks of a follow-up: “Are you Jewish?” And then another: “Is this a cult?”
The woman points the stranger toward a building on the opposite side of the road, tells him this is the office of Watchman Outreach Ministries, and suggests he inquire within. The man politely thanks the lady, and decides he has some time to kill. Two hours later, the man re-emerges into the now-fading daylight with several books under his arm, and a head reeling with implications.
“Do you believe you are literal Israel, and if so what is the history of this belief?”
Yes, we do believe that the Celtic, Anglo, Saxon, Germanic, and Scandinavian peoples of the earth are direct genetic descendants of ancient Israel. Moreover, people from every economic class and every social strata are among the Celtic, Anglo, Saxon and kindred peoples who have embraced the proposition that the lost sheep of the House of Israel are not lost, but are in plain sight as they historically have filled the denominations and sanctuaries of Christianity throughout Europe, the British Isles, Scandinavia, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and elsewhere. The fingerprints of ancient Israel are stamped indelibly upon the Celtic, Anglo, Saxon, Germanic, and Scandinavian peoples of the earth. A detective is able to pinpoint a suspect by a fingerprint that matches a given individual; so it is with identifying the descendants of ancient Israel in our modern world. The history, heraldry, character, religion, laws, literature, art, and other attributes peculiar to ancient Israel are found exclusively among the Anglo, Saxon, Germanic and kindred peoples alone. The fingerprints of ancient Israel match perfectly with the Celtic, Anglo, Saxon, and Germanic peoples of modern history.
The tens of millions of Caucasians who have populated Europe, the British Isles, Scandinavia, the United States, the Dominion of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and elsewhere are fulfilling all the protocol that the twelve tribes of Israel were to accomplish in history. The British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America, the European nations, and Scandinavia have not come into prominence without God’s notice. These people are surely a reflection of precisely what was prophesied to take place among the multitudes that were to descend from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-Israel.
The proper identification of the Anglo/Israel and kindred peoples of the earth is imperative if one is to make any biblical and historical sense of the major and minor prophets of the Bible. The covenants, charters, guarantees, and pledges from God to Israel are meaningless unless we can identify the people who are fulfilling these prophetic covenants and divine decrees. Most of the Christian clergy and their followers believe that modern Jews are Israel and that ancient Israel is fulfilled in the relatively small number of Jews in the world today. But absolutely nothing could be further from the truth!
“Is there biblical justification for the name “Church of Israel?”
Investigation into the Bible demonstrates that this is a perfectly logical name for the redeemed people whom Jesus Christ came to save. The name Israel, first given to Jacob and then to all his descendants, appears more than 2,500 times in the Bible. All forty authors of the Holy Bible were Israelites, and they wrote the Bible to, for, and about Israel. Other peoples are found in Scripture, but only as they pertained to or exerted influence over Israel. Israel is the people of the Book!
The Israelites of Scripture are called the congregation of Israel (Qahal) 160 times, the assembly of Israel (Edah) 21 times, and Ekklesia 116 times in the New Testament. Ancient Israel in the Old Testament constituted the church, while redeemed Israel, composed of Jews (Judah) and Gentiles (Israelites of the dispersion), made up the New Testament church. Both the “Jews” and the “Gentiles” of the New Testament were primarily Israelites. Only in rare cases would the Jews of the New Testament be called anything other than Israelites (John 8:44, Revelation 2:9 and 3:9) or Gentiles rather than Israelites. “Church of Israel” seems very appropriate as the name for modern-day Israelites since the Old and New Testaments point to Israel being the people who constituted the congregation of the Living God.
Consider this: the name church presupposes and points to Jesus Christ, Who announced this: “. . . upon this rock I will build my church . . .” (Matthew 16:18). The name Israel identifies the people who comprised the church in the Old Testament (Acts 7:38). They are one and the same people as the church in the New Testament. Moreover, the vast majority of labels used to identify a given church in modern America cannot be found in Scripture at all. “Church of Israel” is appropriately named because both Jesus Christ and the Bible point us to Israel. Jesus Christ Himself was an Israelite, of the seed of David and tribe of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel). The Bible itself is the story of Israel, beginning in Genesis 12:1 with the call of Abram and ending in Revelation 22 with the full restoration of God’s covenant Kingdom on earth.
“Are you Jewish?”
Real Jews, pedigreed Judeans (meaning certified stock descended from Judah, the fourth son born to Jacob-Israel), constitute only one of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. Moreover, most modern Jews today are not descended from Judah and are not certified, pedigreed, Judean stock descended from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. Only a small minority of those called Jews today are legitimate Judeans descended from the tribe of Judah. The major portion of modern Jews descended from the Khazars. The Khazar Empire once controlled an area from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and from the Caucasus Mountains to the Volga River and flourished from the sevent to the eleventh centuries of the Christian era.
The Khazars were the “third world” of their day and exercised tremendous influence against the Muslim advances on Byzantium. They rejected both Islam and Christianity and converted to Judaism. Additionally, they were a mixture of several different races, including Edomites, Canaanites, Mongols, and Turks. At the collapse of the Khazarian Empire, vast numbers of them moved into Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe. Eventually, they migrated into Western and Northern Europe, the British Isles, and Scandinavia, making their way to America and Canada. Most modern Jews descended from this admixture and are neither Judean nor Israelite by blood.
Arthur Koestler, a well known Jewish author, writes of their history in his book The Thirteenth Tribe (Random House, New York, 1976). He traces the history of the ancient Khazar Empire, a major but almost forgotten power in Eastern Europe, which in the Dark Ages converted to Judaism. The forces of Genghis Khan finally wiped out the Khazars, but evidence indicates that the Khazars themselves migrated to Poland and formed the cradle of Western Jewry.
Regarding the racial origin of modern Jews, Mr. Koestler writes this in his book: “. . . the large majority of surviving Jews in the world is of Eastern European and thus perhaps mainly of Khazar origin. If so, this would mean that their ancestors came not from the Jordan but from the Volga, not from Canaan but from the Caucasus, once believed to be the cradle of the Aryan race; and that genetically they are more closely related to the Hun, Uigur and Magyar tribes than to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . .” (Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe, p. 17).
The Jews themselves admit they are not blood relatives of the ancient Hebrew Israelites of the Old Testament. The Jewish Almanac (Bantam Books, New York, 1980) records the following statement on page 13: “Strictly speaking, it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a ‘Jew’ or to call a contemporary Jew an ‘Israelite’ or a ‘Hebrew’.”
It is important to recall that all legitimate Jews (Judeans descended from the tribe of Judah) are Israelites, having descended from Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Conversely, not all Israelites are Jews. Jews (Judeans) descended from Judah are only one of twelve tribes descended from Jacob-Israel. We can correctly say then that all true Judeans are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Judeans. It is most unfortunate, indeed tragic, that a majority of the Christian clergy refers to Israelites as Jews. This is so misleading!
It is biblically incorrect to call all Israelites Jews. Sadly, most Christians and their pastors use the terms Jew and Israel interchangeably. They incorrectly believe and teach that all Israelites are Jews, and that the modern people called Jews are all that remains of the ancient people called Israel. But, those who carefully read the Bible would never come to this conclusion. The Church of Israel is not a Jewish church, and in the proper historical definition of the modern meaning of Jew, there are no Jews attending the Church of Israel. However, if one would ask if there are any Israelites attending COI descended from the tribe of Judah (true Judeans, in contrast to the counterfeit Jews of Revelation 2:9 and 3:9) the answer would be yes. A quick review of the word Jew as it appears in the Old Testament is helpful to most Christians in keeping the record straight on the Jews.
A Review of the Word Jew:
In its singular form, Jew (Yee-hoo-dee’) appears only ten times in all of the Old Testament. Eight of those ten times occur in the Book of Esther, one time in Jeremiah 34:9, and one time in Zechariah 8:23. The word Jew is first mentioned in singular form in Esther 2:5 around 518 B. C. Abraham was called from Ur of the Chaldees around 1921 B. C., more than a thousand years before the word Jew was even coined. Abraham was not a Jew, and neither were Isaac or Jacob-Israel. Except for the Book of Esther, the word Jew (singular form) appears only two times in all the Old Testament, which comprises 85% of the entire Bible.
The proper biblical use of the word Jew is only in reference to the racial descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob-Israel, also the tribe that bears the name Judah, and the multitudes of people descended from this one of Jacob’s twelve sons (tribes). Most people called Jews in the 21st Century did not descend from Judah and are neither Jews nor Israelites.
The word Jew in its plural form appears only seventy-three times in the Old Testament, and forty-three of those times again are in the Book of Esther. The first use of the word Jew in its plural form is II Kings 16:6, which was about 742 B. C., or more than one thousand years after Abraham died. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, is not a Jewish Bible. The Bible is a book written to, for, and about Israel. The name Israel appears more than 2,500 times in the Bible and refers to all the people descending from the twelve sons (twelve tribes) of Jacob-Israel.
The only true Jews are those called Judeans who descended from Judah, the fourth son of Jacob-Israel and the tribe that bears the name of Judah. The word Jew was first applied to that portion of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi that returned from the Babylonian captivity. In Revelation 2:9 and 3:9, our Lord Jesus Christ clearly divides between the true Jews (Judeans) and those who called themselves Jews but whom Christ labeled as “the synagogue of Satan.” Because of the offensive connotations that have come to be associated with this word, it cannot be used to describe the descendants of Judah without causing confusion. It is preferable to call the racial descendants of Judah by the name Judean. However, one should not take this to mean that the Authorized King James Bible has been mistranslated because of its use of the word Jew or any other word. Beware of those who presume to know more than the forty-seven linguists who translated the AKJV.
More Old Testament History:
The collective Israelites of all twelve tribes were united in a confederation during the monarchies of King Saul, David, and Solomon for a historical run of 120 years. At the death of Solomon in 975 B. C., the one nation of collective Israel was split into two separate, distinct nations with the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the majority of Levi forming the southern Kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam (Solomon’s son), with its capital in Jerusalem. The other ten tribes formed themselves into the Kingdom of Israel under the leadership of Jeroboam, with their capital in Samaria.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel survived under nineteen different kings from nine different dynasties for some 254 years until it was completely destroyed in a number of invasions by Assyrian armies, with large numbers of captive Israelites taken into Central Asia. Finally, in 721 B. C., the capital of Samaria was captured and plundered, and the remaining Israelites were taken into Central Asia. This marked the political and military end of the Kingdom of Israel, with only a handful of individual Israelites remaining as per Isaiah 17:1-6. However, this handful of Israelites that were left appears later in history under the name Samaritans (as per the woman at the well in John 4). These particular Samaritans were indeed racial Israelites and were receptive to the Gospel preached by Philip (Acts 8:5-6).
The Southern Kingdom of Judah survived for 387 years under a succession of kings descended from David. In 713 B. C., Assyrian armies raided and seized forty-six fenced cities in Judah and carried in excess of 200,000 of the prime Judean stock into Central Asia, where they were united with Israelites previously taken. A good portion of Benjamin had also been carried captive by the Assyrian armies, where they joined with the Israelites under Assyrian rule.
The Babylonian (Chaldean) armies invaded and plundered the Kingdom of Judah under the command of Nebuchadnezzar in 606-607 B. C. Finally, again in 588 B. C., the nation of Judah was completely destroyed, and Zedekiah, the last king to reign in Jerusalem, was carried into Babylon along with the vast majority of the Israelites remaining in the Kingdom of Judah. Some seventy years later, a small remnant numbering less than 50,000 was allowed (under the permissive decrees of Cyrus) to return from Babylon around 536 B. C. under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. Much smaller numbers returned later under the leadership of Ezra (around 458 B. C.), as well as a small number with Nehemiah. The primary body of all the twelve tribes of Israel remained in Central Asia under the rule of the Medes and Persians.
The Persians succeeded the Assyrians and dominated the subjects and lands once ruled by Assyria, including the multitudes of Israelites taken captive by Assyrian kings. Persian rule continued for about one hundred years after the close of the Old Testament canon in 497 B.C. The land of Judea was under the lordship of the governors of Syria. The indigenous Judeans exercised religious functions and a measure of civil authority under Syrian supervision. The returning members of the tribe of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi under Zerubababel and Jeshua had rebuilt the temple, restored the city of Jerusalem, and reorganized themselves into a nation. The nation of Judah lying between Persia and Egypt suffered much from the constant wars that unfolded between these two nations.
In 333 B.C., all of Syria and Palestine fell under the yoke of Alexander the Great. Alexander was inclined to treat the Israelites of Judea with favor; but upon his death, the land of Judea fell between the hammer and anvil of Syria and Egypt. Syria exercised initial control over Judea, but in time, when Egypt was ruled by the Ptolemaic kings (320-198 B.C.), large numbers of the Israelite Judeans established themselves in Alexandria and elsewhere in Egypt. The Septuagint translation is alleged to have been translated in Egypt about 285 B.C.
Antiochus the Great conquered Judea in 198 B.C. and annexed it to Syria. The country was carved into five provinces that are well known to readers of the Gospels: they were Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea (collectively called Judaea). The other provinces included Trachonitis and Peraea. For a time, the Judeans were allowed a measure of freedom under the high priest and council. About 180 B. C., Judea became the dowry of Cleopatra, a Syrian princess who married Ptolemy Philometor, king of Egypt.
Antiochus the Great was subdued during this time but regained control of Judea at the death of Cleopatra, when a fierce and bloody battle ensued. In 170 B.C., Antiochus, who was growing quite hostile toward the attitude and behavior of the priesthood and those associated with the temple, plundered Jerusalem, enslaved large numbers of people, profaned the temple, forced the Judeans to work on the Sabbath, and prohibited circumcision. The final act of tyranny occurred when Antiochus offered a sow upon the altar and proceeded to erect an altar in honor of Jupiter.
The ruthless plunder and unbridled yoke imposed upon the Judeans by Antiochus the Great inspired the revolt of the Maccabees. Mattathias, the first of the Maccabees, initiated the rebellion. Mattathias was an energetic, savvy priest of great character. He led a company of devout Judeans and pledged to free Judea from the yoke of Antiochus. Judas Maccabaeus (Maccabaeus is from the Hebrew word for hammer) succeeded his father, assisted by his four brothers.
By 165 B.C., Judas had seized control of Jerusalem and purified and rededicated the temple. In celebration of this event, he initiated the Feast of Dedication. Judas lost his life in battle and was succeeded by his brother Jonathan, another brother Simon, and his nephew John Hyrcanus. During this time, the Hasmonean line of priests/rulers grew popular but lacked the great virtues of the early Maccabeans.
Of great significance is the fact that in about 126 B.C., the Edomities were conquered and given the choice of becoming converted “Jews” or else face harsh repression and even death. It was at this time that the Edomites at least pretended to convert to Judaism and quickly made their way into important positions in the civil and religious life of Judaea. This infusion of Edomite stock into the Judean population becomes increasingly significant as the birth, ministry, and life of Jesus Christ unfold in the first century. Edomites made their way into all the major religious sects including the Pharisees, Sadducees, and, of course, the Herodians. The Herodians were mostly of Edomite (Idumean) stock, from the Edomites who alleged to have converted to the religion of the Judeans around 126 B.C.
The land of Judea had little peace under the Hasmonean line of priests/rulers; following a time of civil war, the conflict drew attention from Rome. The Roman government led a conquest of Judaea, and Jerusalem fell to Pompei in 63 B.C. Pompei left Hyrcanus, the last of the Hasmoneans and Antipater, an Idumean (Edomite), with the reins of power. By 47 B.C., Julius Caesar had appointed Antipater procurator of Judaea while appointing his own son, Herod, governor of Galilee. When Caesar was assassinated, civil unrest broke out, and Herod fled to Rome. In 40 B.C., Herod was appointed king of Judea. Returning to Palestine, he restored order with his marriage to Mariamne, the granddaughter of John Hyrcanus. This Herod was on the throne when our Lord Jesus Christ was born.
History records that Judea continued to be a thorn in the side of the Roman Imperial government. The Gospels of the New Testament provide insight into some of the political intrigue that continued to plague the relationship between Judea and a series of Roman Emperors. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor in place when the Jesus Christ was crucified in AD 33. Several religious parties competed for control of the temple and the Sanhedrin. They included the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and two somewhat obscure groups called the Essenes and the Zealots. The Pharisees and Sadducees dominated the religious scene.
By AD 70, the tension between Rome and various elements within Judea reached such a boiling point that the Roman General Titus plundered, pillaged, and sacked Jerusalem and its surrounding countryside, leaving the land prostrate and destitute and the Judean inhabitants scattered and fleeing the country by the droves. As terrible and destructive as this Roman invasion was, it was not the end. Again in AD 135, Roman armies invaded the land and this time brought a final end to whatever remained of the fragmented Kingdom of Judah.
Why Is This History Important?
The foregoing sketch of the Kingdom of Judah following the division of the twelve tribes at the death of Solomon is necessary to demonstrate that by 721 B.C., the ten tribes of Israel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been forcibly moved from their homeland into Central Asia under the auspices of the Assyrian armies. By 713 B.C., a large portion of Judah and Benjamin, together with Levi, had also been taken and removed from the land of Judea by Assyrian armies and taken into Central Asia to join their fellow Israelites.
When the first century of the Christian era opened, only a small percentage of the total body of national Israel resided in Palestine. Portions of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, together with individual members from other tribes, remained in Judea and Jerusalem. The main body of all twelve tribes resided outside the perimeters of Judea.
The New Testament confirms this. The Apostle Peter addressed his epistle to the Israelites in dispersion (I Peter 1:1-2). James addressed his epistle to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). Standing before Agrippa in defense of his life, St. Paul declared, “. . . I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night hope to come . . .” (Acts 26:6-7). The Apostle John confirmed in the words of Jesus that other sheep existed beyond the confines of Judea: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). A reference to the Israelites in dispersion in the first century of the Christian era is confirmed in John 7:35 and 11:52.
The Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His apostles and commanded them, saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6). Some time later in His ministry, Jesus Christ emphasized this to His apostles: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).
Repeatedly, Jesus Christ announced that He had come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:9, 10). The only people in all of Scripture who ever were designated as “lost” were the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. Jesus reaffirmed repeatedly that He had “. . . come to save that which was lost” (Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10). The twelve tribes of Israel were known as the “sheep people” of Scripture. Jesus Christ announced this in John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” My hope is that it is obvious now why this history is important.