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Jews, Gentiles, and Christians

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Jews, Gentiles, and Christians

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Jews, Gentiles, and Christians
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The Bible divides the family of man into several fundamental groups both spiritual and genealogical. While these fundamentally influence end-time prophecy interpretation, many are troubling to Christians who, based on interpretations of Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11, question which if any of these divisions exist and if they do, do they extend to Christians as a whole since these passages seem to eliminate differences between Jews and non-Jews? Undoubtedly, many distinctions between these groups of Christians, such as their need for salvation, their access to God and salvation, and their calls to holiness, have been eliminated but as shown below, other distinctions remain. Today, most Christians classify people into two spiritual groups, saved and unsaved, and most Jews into Jews and gentiles (or Greeks, others, etc.). However, the Bible defines many different groups, each with varying roles and impacts in the end-time drama. Genesis defines genealogical divisions while both Old and New Testament passages define various spiritual groups. Everybody is simultaneously a member of both genealogical and spiritual groups.

Figure 1 shows the various genealogical groups from Genesis' list of nations. Starting with Genesis 7 where God divides Noah's descendants into four broad groups:

1. Nations possessing quantity blessings: Japheth's descendents

2. Nations possessing quality and Messianic blessings: Shem's descendents

3. Cursed nations: Ham's youngest son, Canaan and his descendents

4. Unblessed but not cursed nations: Ham's other sons, Cush, Mizraim, and Phut and their descendents

Shortly following this, Genesis turns its focus almost exclusively to one of Shem's descendents, Abraham (Abram), who unconditionally receives both special blessings and Shem's Messianic promise (Genesis 17:4-8). Based their maternal pedigree, each descendent a portion of these blessings:

1. Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah the son's of Abraham's second wife, Keturah

2. Ishmael the son of the bondwoman Hagar

3. Isaac the son of Abraham's first wife Sarah

Isaac received key promises such as Genesis 26:2-5:

And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

This relationship divides humanity into two groups: God's wife, Israel (Jews), and all others, the gentiles. The Old Testament records one last division that of Israel's twelve sons, who each receive special perpetual blessings (Genesis 49) producing the nation's tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. Of particular interest are the blessings of Judah and Joseph. Judah received the Messianic promise and produced both the royal lineage of kings and the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Joseph received the double portion inheritance of the first-born and produced not one but two tribes. Israel created Joseph's two tribes when he bestowed special blessings on both of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, in Genesis 48.

Figure 1. Genesis' List of Nations

Spiritually, the Old Testament separates people into two groups: the righteous and the wicked. Ezekiel 18:20-32 shows the final determination of a person's righteousness occurs on their death:

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Throughout their lives, people have the opportunity to turn from (righteous) or to sin (wicked). At their deaths, the righteous enjoy the rewards of heaven while the wicked endured the torment of hell. A person's heritage, Jew or gentile, neither guaranteed their destination nor helped at the time of their judgment. In reality, the Jews status as God's chosen people has often proven a heavy burden since God's judgment always starts with His people (1 Peter 4:17) whom He holds to the highest standards.

Jesus' crucifixion in the New Testament added two new spiritual classifications: saved (Christians) and unsaved. One key difference, permanence, separates these from the Old Testament's righteous and wicked. Now people can repent, ask for Jesus' forgiveness, turn from sin, and have their name permanently written in the Lamb's (Jesus) book of life. The presence of one's name in Lamb's book of life ‘saves' them from the wicked's (unsaved) punishment in both hell and the lake of fire. In a manner reminiscent of Israel's marriage covenant, this salvation is a binding contract established between God and humanity. Unlike the marriage covenant, salvation is not established with a single race but all humanity (Romans 10:9-13) and is a gift freely given and received (John 3:16-21), though it requires people to call on the only name that can save them:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Since its inception the covenant's simple provisions has generated numerous critics who often argue that its lack of reliance on works (activities designed to ‘earn' one's way into heaven) encourages lazy believers. To a degree, this has proven true and leads to a third New Testament spiritual classification, carnality:

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

Applying only to the saved, carnality speaks of both spiritual immaturity and sinful lives. Carnal Christians are saved and destined for heaven but choose to embrace sin and seek the pleasures of the world. While spiritually mature Christians continually strive to overcome sin, carnal Christians succumb to it and lead lives virtually indistinguishable from the unsaved. Today, the vast majority of people are unsaved. Of the saved, the vast majority are carnal and sadly, only a very small percentage of people ever grow into spiritually mature Christians.

Throughout the New Testament, particularly in the book of Revelation, two other names frequently used for the saved are the church and the bride. The definition of the church is straight forward with it referencing all saved believers, Jew, gentile, spiritually mature, and carnal while the definition of the bride is far more subtle. She is only one of many wedding participants found in Jesus' wedding parables:

  • The Groom: Jesus Christ
  • The Groom's Father, the king: God the Father
  • The bride: gentile Christianity
  • The wedding party: saved Jews
  • The servants: unsaved Jews left behind at the rapture
  • The invited guests who refuse to come: non-Christian noble gentiles left behind at the rapture
  • The replacement guests: other non-Christian gentiles left behind at the rapture