The emergence of the underground church of China over the last 30 years has dramatically changed the composition and make-up of the international ecclesia: their large numbers, experience with persecution, faith in supernatural intervention, oriental history, emphasis on house churches, and the “back to Jerusalem” vision. Because of their “family-ancestor” culture, they also bring a unique view of “extended family” order to the international Body of Messiah. Their presence has changed all our ecclesiology (understanding of the meaning and form of the international church).
A group of Chinese and international leaders, coordinated by David Demian, held a vision for bringing a large number of Christians to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. This “Global Gathering” took place in November 2014 and was called “822” – taken from Zechariah 8:22, describing “many peoples and huge nations coming to seek YHVH of hosts in Jerusalem…” Indeed, the International Convention Center in Jerusalem was filled during this historic event.
David Demian, himself is an Egyptian Arab, a physician, who lived and practiced many years in Canada. There was wide representation not only from East Asian churches and Western churches, but also Arab Christians. The leadership team included several who have long served the “Isaiah 19 highway” vision, which seeks spiritual revival in the Middle East as well as reconciliation between Arabs and Jews, as indicated in the prophecies of Isaiah 19:23-25.
At that conference, and in subsequent “Global Gatherings,” some of us as part of the Messianic Jewish leadership in Israel came on the stage and led a time of honoring our Arab Christian brothers and sisters, as well as kneeling down in repentance for our own sins of pride and unfaithfulness. The result was rather shocking, as the Arab Christians were deeply touched by the display of love and humility; almost stunned to find themselves being blessed by Messianic Jews.
David responded by leading the entire international community represented there (including Chinese and Arabs) in a “Ruth” covenantal vow to the Jewish people, that “Your people will be my people (Ruth 1:16).” I felt this moment to be an historic turning point. Until now, those who had a “Ruth calling” were seen only as those minority Christians whom the Lord had touched with a special love and loyalty to the Jewish people.
Because of the involvement of both Chinese and Arab Christians in this covenantal commitment, a spiritual shift is taking place. The “Ruth calling” is not to be the exception but the rule, not something unusual but the norm, not the minority but the majority. The understanding of Ruth as an “ecclesiological” parable would mean that Orpah (“one who turns her back”) is no longer to represent the normative Christian with Ruth (perhaps meaning “friend”) as the exception; but rather that Ruth should represent a picture of ALL true Christians, with Orpah being the ungodly or unfaithful.
This gives a new perspective on what we would call a “Ruth Ecclesiology”: The International Church Ecclesia is essentially connected to Israel. This connection comes by covenant with the God of Israel through the Messiah of Israel (Ephesians 2:12, 19). The connection between Israel and the Church is redefining them both as to their original biblical meaning: The essence of the identity of Israel is a godly nation that is extended spiritually into the other nations through the Church; and the Church is essentially an international spiritual body rooted in Israel as its point of origin. The identity of the Church is linked to Israel; and the identity of Israel is linked to the Church.
Dan Juster has called this “the dual restoration of Israel and the Church.” It links Israel-ology and Ecclesiology into one. We believe this to be the original view of the apostles toward Israel and the Church. In our day, this apostolic view of “ecclesiology” is being restored. The Messianic Jewish “Remnant” plays a bridging role of being the Church within Israel, and Israel within the Church.
A restorationist view of ecclesiology also has an effect on one’s eschatology (study of the End Times). Ecclesiology affects Eschatology. Restorationist ecclesiology should lead to a restorationist eschatology. How we view Israel and the Church today affects how we see End Times prophecies being fulfilled tomorrow. If Israel and the Church are connected to one another in their origin, they will be connected to one another in their destiny.
This shared identity affects how we see the coming of the kingdom of God. We could say, “Israel plus the Church equals the Kingdom of God.” Or, “the relationship between Israel and the Church gives birth to the Kingdom of God on Earth.”
The book of Ruth describes real historic events, but may be seen as a prophetic parable of the relationship between Israel and the Church. This is what we call “Ruth Ecclesiology.” In a similar fashion, the book of Esther describes real historic events but may be seen as a prophetic parable of the End Times. We call this: “Esther Eschatology.”
Watch for part 2 next week!