Most in the Church of God are familiar with the teaching that the lost ten tribes of Israel are the English speaking nations like the United States and Great Britain, plus some other European countries such as France, Norway, Ireland, etc. We have been taught that the United States is Manasseh and that Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are Ephraim, the two sons of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob who was also called Israel. It is upon Israel the the soon coming great tribulation will primarily fall (Jeremiah 30:7).
Some call this doctrine, "British Israelism", some call it, "the Israel in prophecy doctrine". I like to call it, "the identity of Israel doctrine".
Whatever it is called, it was taught by Mr. Armstrong from the beginning of the Philadelphia era of the Church. It may be best known from Mr. Armstrong's book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy.
During the time Mr. Tkach was changing doctrine after the death of Mr. Armstrong, during the decade of 1987 to 1996, Mr. Tkach and other headquarters ministers in Worldwide began to minimize the importance of this doctrine. Before it was taught to be false, they taught that it was not important. "It has nothing to do with salvation", they said.
I want to show in this post several reasons why this doctrine is very important, sometimes even for salvation. These are not necessarily the only reasons, but for me they are powerful ones.
It has been and continues to be important for my salvation, so I am speaking from personal experience.
Reason number one why this doctrine is important: The prophecies about the sons of Joseph and about King David's dynasty that have been fulfilled in the English speaking nations are one of the major proofs that God has inspired the Bible and that the Bible is God's word.
How important for salvation is it to know that God, the Creator of mankind and the universe, speaks to us through the Bible?
When I first came into contact with the Plain Truth Magazine when I was eighteen years old, I was challenged to prove whether God exists or not. That was not hard. I knew enough about science to see God's hand in the creation of the universe. And I knew that evolution cannot explain human consciousness. I was able to prove, logically, that God exists.
But it is a long step from knowing that a Creator exists to knowing that He inspired the Bible and that the Bible is more than just a collection of human literature.
So the next step was to try to prove if the Bible was inspired by God.
With the help of the Church's literature, I studied prophecy in the Bible to see if fulfilled prophecy might prove that a God who is able to know the future inspired those prophecies. To make a long story short, I found two major cases of fulfilled prophecy that proved, for me, that the Bible is God speaking. One is the prophecy in Daniel that at the time of the end men would run to and fro and knowledge would increase (Daniel 12:4). That, combined with the Bible's teaching of the 7,000 year plan of God, pointed to our time today when transportation and knowledge would vastly increase. And that has been fulfilled exactly as predicted.
By itself, that might be just coincidence.
But the second case is the collection of prophecies concerning the sons of Joseph and the royal line of David. By studying the Bible and history, I was able to prove that those prophecies were fulfilled in a way that I could not reasonably explain as coincidence.
Combined with the prophecy in Daniel, this was more than I could explain as coincidence, and was for me conclusive proof that the Bible is God speaking.
The third step for me did not involve research or study. It was a simple choice. I had to choose whether to believe God, or not. In other words, I knew, by logical proof, that God exists and that He speaks to me through the Bible. But that, by itself does not prove that the Bible is true, only that it is God speaking. In order to know that it is true, I had to take the next step, choose to believe what God says. I had to make a decision whether or not to trust God that He will always tell the truth in the Bible and never lie. So I mulled it over in my mind, and then I made a commitment, to God and to myself, that I will always and unconditionally believe what God says.
That was the beginning of my faith that led to repentance, baptism, and conversion.
Thus, the identity of Israel doctrine was important for my salvation, for without the proof of the inspiration of the Bible that this doctrine supplies, how could I have faith that Jesus Christ ever even existed, much less know and understand all of the doctrines of the Bible that are required for salvation?
Reason number two why this doctrine is important: This doctrine is vital for understanding the work the Church of God needs to be doing in these end times. The knowledge of who Israel is today with the understanding of God's 7,000 year plan for mankind, along with specific prophecies about the tribulation to come, helps us understand the need and the focus for warning our nations about the tribulation to come, what can be called, "the Ezekiel warning". The Ezekiel warning is important enough to God that He says the blood of the people will be on our heads if we do not warn them. (In the near future, probably in my next post, I will show from the Bible that God has made the Church of God today the Ezekiel watchman.)
Our knowledge of the identity of Israel helps us understand that in a few short years the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and several other nations will go through the worst time of suffering, trouble, and death that has ever occurred on the earth, and that this will happen as punishment for our collective and individual sins.
We are able to understand that we need to give a warning. We understand who the warning is for. We understand what the warning is about, that is, the exact nature of the disaster that is coming. And we understand the reasons for it, the sins of our nations. We also understand what the people have to do to repent and escape the punishment, what they need to do to turn from their sins. All this understanding is made possible by the knowledge of who Israel is and the knowledge of how end time prophecies apply to Israel.
That knowledge gives the Church the ability to deliver a warning. It is not the only thing we need. We also need the means to do it (God's help and power, wisdom, time, money, technology - whatever). But at least we have the knowledge of what needs to be done. And we do have the means to do it at least on a small scale. We hope and pray that God will open the doors to give us greater power to reach more people - nevertheless, we can, and are, doing something now. Several Church of God fellowships are delivering that warning, and every month that goes by, more and more people are hearing the warning.
Why is that warning important?
This time is unique in human history because, for the first time, much or most of the first generation in the millennium has already been born. The people that Christ and the resurrected saints will work with are alive today, most of them probably. That first generation in the millennium will remember today. They will remember living in the last days of our material prosperity before our nations are struck. They will remember the agony of the tribulation. And they will remember if God was fair to give them a warning, through the Church, BEFORE the tribulation began so they had a chance to heed the warning and escape the punishment.
In the millennium, would you like to work with people who feel God was unfair because they never had a warning? Would you like to explain why you did not support a warning? Or would you rather work with people who remember hearing the warning, but they also remember that they were responsible for ignoring the warning? Which kind of people would be easier to work with? Which would be more ready for repentance and conversion? Which would be more teachable and ready to become a model nation for the world to follow?
We can give that warning now, and it is the doctrine of the identity of Israel and the prophecies about Israel that enable us to give that warning.
Reason number three why this doctrine is important: It is important for preaching the gospel, making disciples, and bring new members into the Church of God and baptizing them.
This reason actually relates to reason number one, but from a different angle.
I put reason number one on a personal level, showing why it was important for my salvation and can be important for the salvation of others because it proves that the Bible is God speaking. I could never have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior if I did not know that the Bible accounts about Him are true, and I could never have known that the Bible was trustworthy without proving the inspiration of the Bible by the fulfilled prophecies about the sons of Joseph and the line of David.
But also, from the point of view of preaching the gospel, consider what we are saying to people when we preach the gospel.
We are asking people to give up their traditions. We are asking them to give up Sunday, give up the trinity, give up the immortal soul doctrine, give up Christmas and Easter, and give up believing that their traditional church and their ministers are a true church and true ministers of God. In some cases, we are asking them to give up their friends, their wives or husbands, their whole families, and their jobs. That is a lot.
We are even asking them to give up bacon and eggs for breakfast.
The only way they can do that is to believe the Bible more than their traditions, their parents, their churches, their ministers, and their own opinions.
And how hard will that be without proof that God inspired the Bible?
Even with that proof, it is not easy.
We need to understand and teach the truth about Israel and end-time prophecy as part of our effort to preach the gospel so that people can learn, by the fulfillment of those prophecies, to trust the Bible, and then trusting the Bible, be willing to give up their old beliefs and practices and believe and live by the truth.
Mr. Armstrong's book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, was probably the most effective vehicle for preaching the gospel of any one book or booklet or article published by the Worldwide Church of God.
For these and other reasons, the knowledge of who Israel is and what is prophecied for Israel just ahead is vital to the work of the Church of God today.
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
Why this Subject Is Important, Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in Prophecy