FOREWORD TO COMMONWEALTH THEOLOGY
Douglas W. Krieger
When we read Ephesians 2:11-22 we understand that the expressions “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” and “now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (vss. 12 and 19) suggests to us that our previous status as “aliens, strangers, and foreigners” had everything to do with this “Commonwealth of Israel.” But now, we who once were “without Christ” no longer have those designations, but are now considered as “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (vss. 12 and 19).
To assert that the “blood of Christ” (vs. 13) had nothing to do with this inclusion into the Commonwealth of Israel is a jaded reading of the text. There is the pernicious and stultifying tendency in the minds of some to suggest that entry into the Commonwealth of Israel is not at stake here. The notion that the blood of Christ brings us into Christ Jesus Himself—into His “one body through the cross” (vs. 16) and that this is separate and apart from bringing us, as well, into the Commonwealth of Israel, is simply NOT justified by the plain reading of the text.
The context is altogether too clear in that the reference after the mentioning of the “one body through the cross” we read: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (vss. 16 and 19). What Paul is emphasizing is abundantly clear: Through the “blood of Christ” – “through the cross” (vss. 13, 16) we have moved from our previous status as aliens, strangers, and foreigners to full-blown legal citizens of the Commonwealth of Israel and are now within a new polity (state, authority, jurisdiction, administration—the amplified meaning of the word “commonwealth”).
Once we were “strangers from the covenants of promise” – we had “no hope” and we were “without God in the world” – but now through His blood we “have been brought near.” “Near” to what? To the Commonwealth of Israel—“with Christ” we are included in the Commonwealth of Israel . . . without Christ we once were aliens. NO MORE; through His blood we who once “were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (vs. 13).
In other words, those who suggest that the Body of Christ is antithetical to the Commonwealth of Israel have created a false dichotomy. That narrative simply does not exist. Normally, this divergent commentary is followed up with an explanation that today’s Jews and Gentiles who, through the blood of Christ, find themselves in His One Body, are now “seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6) AND that we arrived at this “heavenly position” juxtaposed to the “earthly kingdom”—known as the Commonwealth of Israel—not by the “works of the law” but by “grace through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Consequently, today’s Christians have absolutely nothing to do with Israel—absolutely nothing to do with the Commonwealth of Israel because we are the “heavenly expression of the One Body”—the totality of the emphasis is upon the “heavenly Body.” The blood of Christ—the cross brings us into the One Body, into the “Household of Faith”—we are not now members of the Commonwealth of Israel but members of His One Body. In point of fact, this Israel and the Commonwealth thereof, has been abandoned because of their “rejection of Christ” and replaced by the Church (aka, “Replacement Theology”) or this Commonwealth of Israel is completely divorced from the “Bride of Messiah” and must await their earthly role, while the heavenly role of the Church persists throughout the Millennium, even from the pretribulation rapture onward.
Encrypted statements such as:
“Being ‘made nigh by the blood of Christ’ does not mean [to] become a partaker of an unbelieving nation. What being ‘made nigh’ means is ‘brought near’. . . and to what are the Gentiles being ‘brought near’ by the blood of Christ? It is salvation by grace.”
This sounds benevolent to the Gentiles, but it is only half the story—and by telling it one must ask the question: Why was the latter half of the story left off? Could it be that the Commonwealth of Israel in the minds of those who attempt to persuade us that Gentiles are purposefully kept, by the blood of the cross, from unbelieving Israel—from the Commonwealth of Israel? We obtain salvation through faith, no doubt, but are we kept, as well, from this unbelieving Commonwealth of Israel in the process?
Fundamentally, as well, there is embedded in this encryption the notion that anything to do with “Israel”—has nothing to do with us who are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. There is a complete disconnect—we cannot possibly be brought near by the blood of the cross into Israel’s Commonwealth. It is that stigma that is attached to “fleshly Israel” that abhors this “heavenly people”—frankly, we enjoy our “other worldly” posture and are repulsed by a “this worldly” Israel.
“Make not My Father’s house a house of merchandise . . . My Father’s House shall be a house of prayer for all peoples” (Matthew 21:12-13) has no “earthly application” either for Israel and certainly not for the Church. Again, normally, these verses substantiate that following claim:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
What is it about Christians who somehow are offended by inclusion into the Commonwealth of Israel?
Such an interpretation conveys a distortion, even twisting, of the actual reading of the text. We are BOTH now IN CHRIST and IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL. To be IN CHRIST, seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, does not obviate us from the Commonwealth of Israel upon the earth. Have you noticed, we are still on the earth?
The heavenly calling of those who “once were far off” does not remove us from citizenship within the Commonwealth of Israel on terraferma! In point of scriptural fact, being in Christ, through His blood, brings us into full citizenship into this very Commonwealth.
Notwithstanding the exceedingly clear meaning of the text, again, Christians are taught to eschew such an identification with the Commonwealth of Israel and think it antithetical to the One Body seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The entire thrust of the quoted passages in Ephesians 2 has to do with the Him Who “is our peace, who has made both one (Jew and Gentile), and has broken down the middle wall of separation” (vs. 14).
That “wall of separation” excluded those from “far off” from the Commonwealth of Israel. The “law of commandments contained in ordinances” had created an ENMITY between those “far off” and those “near”—it became the “wall of separation.” There was no peace between those of the Commonwealth of Israel and those outside of it. The blood of the cross did not abolish the law, it abolished the enmity created by that law. Those who were given the commandments of God (via Moses) implemented those commands over and against the nations who surrounded them, who were lawless. The nations did not have the “covenants of promise”—they were without hope and without God in the world. Furthermore, they were eventually held in contempt by those who were given the commandments of God—that, then, was the “wall of separation” – the “enmity” that arose between the two—there was no peace!
The separation which persists between this “heavenly” people and her “earthly” counterpart was teleologically bridged by the Son of God and the Son of Man as Jacob’s ladder wherein we read:
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:49-51).
What is revealed by Jesus to Nathanael was an incredibly profound truth. Nathanael actually presented two astonishing truths: Firstly, that Jesus is the SON OF GOD (the revelation of His deity which “man” must declare if they are to “believe” in Him Who sent the Son of God—that is a HEAVENLY revelation and confession); secondly, that Jesus is the King of Israel--which has intense prophetic earthly implications; thus, one revelation is to the “heavens” and the other to the “earth.”
Jesus’ comeback to this confession is that which LINKS together these two dimensions of heaven and earth—yes, in our application, links together the Commonwealth of Israel and the One Body (seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus). What does that look like? Well, Jesus’ reply to Nathanael’s insights was this:
“You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).
As the Son of Man Jesus could readily be recognized by the Jews of His day and by the Gentiles. Of interest, to say the least, is this: The demonic powers of Jesus’ time knew He was the Son of God—they were told by Jesus to keep silent with their outbursts . . . but they would NEVER acknowledge Him as the Son of Man. Why? Because He came to defeat them as the “Second Adam” – as a MAN.
But not just any man:
It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.” However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (1 Cor. 15:43-49)
Therefore, He is the “Glorified Man” Who has brought the earthly man, if you would, into the heavens; by so doing He has joined the earth with the heavens and the heavens with the earth. And know this, the angels are ascending AND descending upon the Son of Man—for as a Man He defeated the powers of darkness and as the Son of Man He is coming again in glory:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This SAME JESUS, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven . . . then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle . . . and in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Acts 1:11; Zech. 14:3-4).
The “greater things” were the Son of God and Son of Man linking the two dimensions together . . . not separating them! It was from this vision that Jacob awoke, gathered stones, anointed them and called that place BETHEL: The House of God. But what BOTH those “called out from among the nations” and the “earthly man” have done is to demolish the very ladder—the work of the cross—that was designed to bring them together.
Yes, we of the “heavens” have distained all things earthly as fleshly and configured an entirely Gnostic accounting of the Divine Plan and Purpose for the Ages—and our Jewish counterparts have accepted that “other worldly” definition; thus, the estrangement has persisted nigh 2,000 years between us.
Therefore, if we are IN CHRIST and included in the Commonwealth of Israel—brought by the precious blood of the cross from “afar” to “near”—then what have been the distortions which have blurred our vision of such a “divine duality”—of bringing heaven upon earth and earth into heaven?
It is impossible to introduce this topic without generating “theological antagonism” with both Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism—both of which have afflicted the relationship between Israel and the EKKLESIA—those “called out from among the nations.” Consequently, there will be this exposure of “Messianic tension” which has been created from the commencement of the Early Church Fathers to our present seminaries and mega-churches which dot the nations throughout this text.
When Paul made his statement in Ephesians 2:12, he was keenly aware that a New Covenant would be created one day for the “house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). It was the same Yeshua/Jesus that Paul persecuted when he was martyring believers in the Way; the same Yeshua who, through the “blood of the cross” broke down the middle wall of separation between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-16) to create One New Man, so making peace.
Yet, we are keenly aware that God had given “backsliding Israel” who “had committed adultery . . . a certificate of divorce” (Jer. 3:8); thus, were the Northern Tribes of Israel “put away” – yes, taken away to Assyria nearly 120 years before Judah was taken into Babylonian Captivity (740-712 BC versus 608-586 BC). Israel/Samaria/Jezreel/Ephraim was “swallowed up of the nations” . . . “Aliens would swallow it up . . . Israel is swallowed up, now they are among the Gentiles like a vessel in which is no pleasure. For they have gone up to Assyria” (Hosea 8:7-9).
Paul knew Israel’s plight, but he also knew of her future:
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days (Hosea 3:4-5).
Yes, a New Covenant would of necessity be needed with BOTH the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31) for the original marriage covenant that God made with them at Sinai they both had broken (Jer. 31:32) . . . “My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them.”
The breach between Kings Rehoboam of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel (cir. 928-927 BC which divided the “Tabernacle of David” (viz., the “United Kingdom”) found Israel’s plight far more extreme until . . . “I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away . . . yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah” (Hosea 1:6-7).
Yes, the “certificate of divorce” had been enacted and enforced but Paul saw something in the “latter days” –
I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD . . . then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, “You are My people!” And they shall say, “You are my God!” (Hosea 2:19-20, 23).
Both Peter and Paul understood the writ of divorce but they likewise understood the implications of a New Covenant would express the mercy of Almighty God toward Israel so that “who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10). Paul was bearing witness to the same when he said:
“As He says also in Hosea: ‘I will call them My people, who were not My people . . . and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people, ‘There they shall be called sons of the living God’” (Romans 9:25-26).
This was not Paul’s simplistic, metaphorical interpretation of why the Gentiles (i.e., the “ethnos” or “nations”) who once were “far off” but now had been made “near” by the blood of the cross—this had everything to do with those sown among the nations who would be “called out to be a people” for His Name. They have now—Ephraim, Jezreel, God will sow—been brought back under a New Covenant reserved for both Houses because they had broken the original covenant; therefore, He declares:
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their heart, and in their minds I will write them” (Hebrews 10:16; Jer. 31:33-34).
No longer are those who were scattered among the nations without mercy—THEY HAVE OBTAINED MERCY!