PART 1. THE UNIVERSAL BODY OF MESSIAH
Author: Norman Manzon, Editor
THE AMC STATEMENT ON THE BODY OF MESSIAH
The Body of Messiah
In this Shofar, we will examine the universal body of Messiah. In our next, the local congregation. Each sentence of our Statement will be examined in detail, though not necessarily in its order of appearance.
"The body of Messiah began at Shavuot (Pentecost) with the baptism of the Holy Spirit after the ascension of Yeshua"
The Body of Messiah
The Body of Messiah Began at Shavuot (Pentecost)
1. Previous to Yeshua's death, resurrection and ascension, He declared that His body or church was still future.
2. 1 Corinthians 12:13 indicates that the body was formed when the first believers were baptized by the Holy Spirit.
By combining the above points we see that Spirit baptism, which initiates the formation of the body of Messiah, was future to Yeshua's declaration prior to His death, resurrection and ascension.
3. After Yeshua's ascension He commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were baptized by the Spirit.
Spirit baptism had not yet occurred even at this point in time after Yeshua's ascension. The formation of the body was yet future.
John 7:38-39 also declares the futurity of Spirit baptism after Yeshua's ascension. Though Spirit baptism is not specifically mentioned here, it should be clear after our sequence of points that it is included in the giving of the Spirit spoken of here: 38. He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." 39. (But He spoke this about the Spirit, which they who believed on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified.)
4. The believers were filled with the Holy Spirit on Shavuot.
A breathtaking event accompanied by audible and visible signs from Heaven occurred on this first Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension. The Spirit filled the believers; but were they baptized by the Spirit? The terms are not synonymous. Let's look further.
5. About twelve years subsequent to that Shavuot, the believers in Cornelius' household were baptized by the Spirit.
6. Peter identified the Spirit baptism of Cornelius' household with that which occurred on the first Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension.
The body of Messiah, the church, began to form on the first Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension, for that is when believers were first baptized by the Holy Spirit.
When Will the Formation of the Body of Messiah Cease?
The body began to be formed on Shavuot, and its formation will cease when the fullness of the Gentiles has comes in.
Once Messiah's Body is Fully Formed, God will Remove it from the Earth
"all believers in Yeshua are members
The Nature of the Universal Body
A local congregation may be referred to as a local body and is expected to function as a body, but the term and the concept must not be confused with the universal body of Messiah. The body of Messiah is a designation which Scripture reserves for the universal church, which is composed solely of believers, and of all believers corporately, from Shavuot to the Rapture (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12).
All Believers in Yeshua Are Members of the Body
All believers are in the body, and each is considered a member. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the significance of each being called a member is threefold:
The Exclusiveness of the Body of Messiah
Understanding that the body of Messiah began at Shavuot and will be removed from the earth at the Rapture is critical for rightly dividing many portions of the Word of Truth. It enabled us to see who will and will not be raptured. It also enables us to rightly divide between those under the Law and those not under the Law; between Israel and the church; between believers in Heaven and believers on earth during the Great Tribulation; and more.
"Membership in the body is based solely on faith in Messiah"
Only Believers in Messiah are In the Body
Condemnation in this context refers to eternal damnation. It is reserved for those who do not believe in Messiah. However, the body will be brought into the Lord's presence at the Rapture, and faith in Messiah qualifies one for entry into the body. If all believers are baptized into the body, and all unbelievers are condemned to Hell, it is inescapable that entry to the body is solely and exclusively by faith in Messiah.
"This body is distinct from Israel and is composed of both Jews and Gentiles made one in Messiah"
The Body is Distinct from the Nation of Israel
The body is described as one new man (v. 15) composed of both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah (v. 13). Ephesians 2:11-15: 11. Therefore remember that you, the Gentiles, in time past were in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision [the Jews] in the flesh made by hands; 12. and that at that time you were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. 13. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who were once afar off are made near by the blood of Messiah. 14. For He is our peace, He making us both one, and He has broken down the middle wall of partition between us, 15. having abolished in His flesh the enmity (the Law of commandments contained in ordinances) so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, making peace between them.... Israel and the Gentile nations had already been in existence when the body of Messiah was formed, and the body is referred to as a new man. If it is new, then it is distinct from Israel as well as from the Gentile nations. Furthermore, Israel is a nation by natural generation, whereas the body of Messiah is a new man by virtue of regeneration, which is of the Spirit.
Another reason we know that the body is distinct from Israel is because no Gentile who joined himself to Israel was ever called an Israelite (for example, Ruth 2:2,21; 4:5,10), whereas all Jews and Gentiles who join the body of Messiah are called by the same designations: believers, Christians, saints, etc.
Another reason is because Israel is referred to as the married, then divorced, and yet to be remarried Wife of Jehovah (Jeremiah 3:1,20; Ezekiel 16:15), whereas the body of Messiah is referred to as the betrothed and yet to be married Bride of Messiah, the latter of which will be discussed below. There is no way to join the two metaphors into one.
Another is that only a small handful of Israelites under the dispensation of the Law had the Spirit "with" them (rare exceptions had Him "in" them, as well), whereas Scripture indicates that all believers from Shavuot to the Rapture have the Spirit "in" them. Furthermore, the Spirit did not always rest on those few Israelites permanently, whereas the Spirit is said to be with all members of the body of Messiah forever. The contrasts summarized: a few, all; with, in; temporarily, forever: (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Numbers 11:17-25; 27:18; 2 Kings 2:9-12; 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11).
Another distinction is that the deceased in the body will be resurrected at the Rapture (see above), which will take place before the Great Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:2-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-13, etc.), whereas all Old Testament saints, including all Old Testament Israelite saints, will be resurrected after the Great Tribulation (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2).
Another is that the entire body of Messiah will be with the Lord in Heaven during the Great Tribulation (1 Corinthians 15:51-52), but only those Israelites saved between Shavuot and the Rapture will be in Heaven during the Great Tribulation.
Another is that the entire body of Messiah will spend an eternity in the blessed presence of the Lord, but only a minority from among Israel, a remnant (Isaiah 1:9, 10:22; Romans 9:27), will be saved.
It is true that the Brit HaChadashah refers to Israel under Moses as the church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38) baptized (immersed) unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:2); but the Greek word translated church simply means an assembly. According to Smith's Bible Dictionary, "Ecclesia, the Greek word for church, originally meant an assembly called out by the magistrate, or by legitimate authority." The "legitimate authority" that called out Israel from among the nations, and the body of believers from the world system, is the same: the Lord. However, the Israelites in the wilderness were an assembly by virtue of natural birth and location, and the body of Messiah is an assembly by virtue of the Spirit's call and organization. Sharing the word assembly in no way indicates that they are part of the same group any more than the Mickey Mouse Club and the Communist Party can be considered identical because they can both be called a group. Furthermore, the idea behind baptism is identification. No Israelite needed to be immersed to be identified with Israel or Moses, and they weren't. They were Israelites by birth, and became distinctly identified with the leadership of Moses when they made a clean break from Egypt by passing through the Red Sea. They were not immersed in the Red Sea. They passed through the Red Sea on dry ground. It was the Egyptians who were immersed in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16-29). The pillar of cloud also identified the Israelites with Moses as it was only they whom the cloud guided and protected, which is illustrated beautifully when the cloud guided the Israelites to the Red Sea, and then moved from in front of them to behind them to shield them from Pharaoh's army (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19).
Israel and the body of Messiah are on two different tracks in the plan of God with a multitude of differences in the details. They are not one and the same, though there is some overlap. Jewish believers from Shavuot to the Rapture are simultaneously members of Israel and the body of Messiah.
The Body is Not "Spiritual Israel"
The important thing to see is that the focus is on the salvation of Israelites. This is established by the enclosing declarations of Romans 9:3-4 and 10:1. 9:3-4: 3. For I myself was wishing to be accursed from Messiah for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4. who are Israelites. 10:1: Brothers, truly my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is for it to be saved. Everything sandwiched between the two statements has to do with the salvation of Israelites. Even those passages in Romans 9 that speak of God's dealings with Gentiles are related back to Israel by Paul's line of reasoning.
Romans 9:33 sheds light on they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. 9:33: even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. Interpreted in the same context, it, too, deals with the salvation of Israelites. It distinguishes between Jews who believe and Jews who do not. Those Israelites that believe on him shall not be put to shame, and those Israelites who do not believe on Him shall be put to shame. It is the closing verse of the chapter, and is an explanation of the opening statement, which is 9:3-4. They are not all Israel, that are of Israel distinguishes between Jews who believe and Jews who do not. There is no denial that Jews who do not believe are part of Israel, and no addition of believing Gentiles to Israel. It merely distinguishes between Jews who believe and Jews who do not believe.
To bring us back to the point, passages such as this do not make the church Israel or the "Israel of God" or "inward Jews" or a part of Israel or a replacement for Israel in any spiritual or physical sense.
To sum up,
Like Israel, the church is a people of God, but Israel and the church are on different tracks in the plan of God. To confound the two identities is to confound the two tracks, the doing of which has caused much misery for Israel and makes it impossible to rightly divide the Word of truth.
The Body is Composed of Both Jews and Gentiles Made One in Messiah
No nation is cut off at the boundary of the body. It extends into the body as far as its membership does. When passages that seem to say otherwise are scrutinized in their contexts, it is seen that they do not contradict this. For example, when Galatians 3:28 says that there is neither Jew nor Greek, it is simply saying that national distinctions have no bearing on, and do not constitute a fissure within, the unity inherent in the body: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Messiah Yeshua. All one in Messiah is the context in which the passage must be understood. In fact, all indicates that there's more than one kind among whom the unity exists. In other contexts, distinctions are clearly maintained among believers. Paul identified himself as a Hebrew, and the Roman believers as Gentiles. Other passages distinguish between believing masters and slaves, and believing men and women within the body (1 Timothy 6:1-21; 1 Corinthians 11:3-16).
The body of Messiah, the one new man is composed of Jews and Gentiles who remain Jews and Gentiles forever (Revelation 21:24,26). Even the ascended Messiah in His glorified, spiritual, heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15:43,44,48) is referred to as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
The Primary Identity of Jewish Believers
"These members are under the solemn duty to keep
These members refers to all members of Messiah's body.
John 13:35: By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love toward one another.
This is a good context in which to examine...
The Figurative Expression Body of Messiah
Colossians 1:18: And He is the Head of the body, the church, who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead, that He may be pre-eminent in all things.
Yeshua said, I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). To bring that to pass certainly does demand sovereign control.
Ephesians 4:15-16: 15. But that you, speaking the truth in love, may in all things grow up to Him who is the Head, even Messiah; 16. from whom the whole body, fitted together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of each part, producing the growth of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
Colossians 3:14-15: 14. And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. 15. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you also are called in one body, and be thankful.
We are the body of Messiah. Each of us, in a coordinated, peaceful and loving manner under the control of Messiah our Head, is to serve the body that it may grow in numbers and maturity.
"We believe that all believers in Yeshua are members
Bride of Messiah
Revelation 21:9: And one of the seven angels who had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.
20. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,
For further study, the author recommends these materials, which may be obtained from Ariel Ministries:
Messianic Bible Studies by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum:
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