Church in the Wilderness and the Fullness of the Gentiles

Published by Rob Skiba June 24, 2014 at 5:25 PM

The CHURCH in the wilderness

Like many, I once believed the Church was founded on the day of Pentecost. While that is true, I discovered I had the timing wrong. It was not the Pentecost of Acts 2, but rather of Acts 7.

ACTS 7:38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

Something extraordinary is pictured for us in the opening chapters of the book of Numbers, and that is the layout of the Church in the wilderness according to the “numbers” given for each tribe. When you draw out a diagram showing who went where and by how many surrounding the Tabernacle, you end up with the following layout:

When you take the meaning of the names of the 12 tribes in the order they are listed in Numbers 1, this is what you end up with:

1. Reuben – See a son

2. Simeon – Harken and listen

3. Judah – He shall be praised

4. Issachar – He will bring a reward

5. Zebulun – Dwelling

6. Ephraim – I shall be doubly fruitful

7. Manasseh – Causing him to forget

8. Benjamin – Son of my right hand

9. Dan – Judge

10. Asher – Happy

11. Gad [fortune] My invader

12. Naphtali – My wrestling

Stringing the meanings of these names into a paragraph, you get:

See a son. Harken and listen! He shall be praised. {For} He will bring a reward. Dwelling {with me} I shall be doubly fruitful, causing {me} to forget {the troubles of my past}. Son of my right hand, judge happily the invader who wrestles {with you/me}.

Is this all just a coincidence? Personally, I think not!

They “assembled” in the wilderness in the shape of a cross according to the numbers of people in each of these tribes. At the “heart” of the cross was the Tabernacle of YHWH, which contained the ark, which contained the Ten Commandments. Does Hebrews 8:10 ring a bell? Yeshua (of the tribe of Judah, represented in the east) planted His feet in Judea to pay the price for that which was on His mind: The “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), which is represented by the tribes to the west. On either side of the cross in the wilderness are those tribes born to Jacob’s concubines (and those rejected by Jacob: Reuben and Simeon). Literally, the whole plan of YHWH is illustrated by the “Church in the wilderness.” But is this the same “church” that we identify ourselves as today? I’m going to suggest it is… or perhaps better stated, it should be.

The book of Numbers is referred to in Hebrew as Bamidbar, which means, “in the wilderness.” As you can see, from Stephen’s testimony in Acts 7, it clearly says the “church” was in the wilderness. The words used throughout the Old Testament for congregation/assembly in Hebrew are virtually the same (in terms of definition) as the Greek word later used in the New Testament for church. It’s just an assembly of people, and in context, specifically, those “called out ones” gathered together under YHWH. The word used here in Acts 7 is exactly the same as the word used throughout the New Testament for the “Church” of Jesus Christ.

The typical Dispensationalist, however, believes the Church began in Acts 2. This simply is not so and a careful reading of the Torah easily proves this. Yes, the Church did begin at Pentecost, but it was the first Pentecost at Mt. Sinai, not the one in the 1st Century.

In Romans 11, Paul clearly teaches that when we believe in Yeshua, we are grafted in to the cultivated olive tree—the original Church, which is Israel.


11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

In Ephesians, we read:


12 That at that time ye were without Christ, 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 Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.Far off from what? The commonwealth of Israel and the covenants of promise given to them.

Far off from what? The commonwealth of Israel and the covenants of promise given to them.


19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The same sort of language is used to describe the Bride of Christ (a.k.a. the Church) in Revelation 21. There we see that the New Jerusalem is referred to as the Bride of the Lamb (who is Christ). Thus, again we see the Bride of Christ (the Church) described as Israel:

REVELATION 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The angel then shows the Bride to John:


9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

As you keep reading, you see that the Lamb’s bride, the New Jerusalem is clearly defined as the 12 tribes of Israel. NOTE: There is no mystical 13th gate called, “the church” in any of the descriptions.

Now, let’s go back to the original site of the wedding:

EXODUS 12:6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly (Hebrew: “q’hal” = assembly of people – Greek: “plethos” = bunch of people) of the congregation (Hebrew: “adath” Greek: “synagogues,” which is the Jewish equivalent of a modern church) of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

Compare the above with Scriptures such as…

MATTHEW 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

The Hebrew version of Matthew, it says: w’im-lo’ yish’ma` ‘aleyhem w’higad’at ‘el-HAQAHAL (the assembly) w’im-lo’ yish’ma` gam-‘el-HAQUHAL (the assembly) w’hayah l’ak k’goy uk’mokes. In the Greek version, it says: ean de parakousÿ autn, eipe tÿEKKLESIA (called out assembly);ean de kai ts EKKLESIA (called out assembly) parakousÿ, est soi hsper ho ethnikos kai ho telns.

All through Scripture, beginning with Abram, right through the Exodus and beyond, we see a people being “called out” by God… and it is and always was Israel. Stephen understood this in Acts 7:38, just as Paul understood it in Romans 11, Galatians 3, Ephesians 2 and elsewhere, and John—as if to totally clear up the matter—was told by the angel in Heaven that the New Jerusalem, was the Bride (that is the Church) of the Lamb (who is Christ). In my opinion, the Scriptures cannot be more clear on who the Church is. Constantine, Darby, Scofield, Larkin et al (and those who subsequently followed after their teachings) are the ones who confused the matter.

The “Church” was married to YHWH on the day of Pentecost, on Mt. Sinai. There, YHWH exchanged vows with Israel saying, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God.” (Exodus 6:7) But He later divorced Israel (Jeremiah 3:8) because she constantly chased after other husbands (gods) and continuously disobeyed her Husband, doing that which was wrong, detestable and adulterous. For more on how He redeemed His divorced Bride, see my notes:

Redeeming the Bride Part 1

Redeeming the Bride Part 2: Drinking the Cup

We must acknowledge that all of the first “Christians” were of the Jews and of the tribes of Israel (the Pentecost of Acts 2 caused 3,000 from the lost tribes to get saved). So, to say that the Church is something apart from Israel is to deny its very foundation in the early part of the first century. It was only in the ministry of Paul that Gentiles began to come into the fold. When they did, the apostle was quite clear that they were being grafted into the cultivated olive tree that is Israel, thus being adopted into the family of God, which had already been established long ago. Who is the family of God?


32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.

33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?

34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

The “will of God” the Father is clearly laid out for us in the Torah, which is why the rest of the Scriptures always point back to it. Yeshua came to live it and model it for us.

The Jews are only one tribe out of twelve. Unless you have blood ties linking back to one of the 12, I believe you get grafted/adopted into the tribe of Ephraim. Why? Go back and read Genesis 48, then read Ezekiel 37. There are only 2 sticks that make up the unified body/family/house/church/kingdom of YHWH. So which stick are you on? See my note on that:

Pick a Stick

The nations of them that are saved, which are going in and out of the New Jerusalem (in Rev. 21) are going in through 1 of the 12 gates. Again, there is no mystical 13th gate called “the Church.” The Church was defined throughout the entire Bible as Israel, so you will have to go through a gate of Israel to get in. God has one people, one Bride, and one plan, which has never changed. John Nelson Darby is the one who invented the doctrine of Dispensationalism, creating division where there never was before. What’s ironic though, is that most Dispensationalist will look at what I am saying here and accuse me of believing in Replacement Theology. I’m sorry, but it is the Dispensationalist who actually subscribes to the idea that the Church has effectively replaced Israel in the plan of God for the past 2,000 years. Then (according to their belief), after our supposed Pre-Trib Rapture out of here, the unchanging God will change back to dealing with Israel again. After studying the Torah for myself, I simply can no longer support such a doctrine.

The cultivated olive tree is Israel and its roots are Hebrew, going back to Abraham. With this in mind, let’s look again at…


19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 

20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 

21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 

22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

This is talking about the natural Israelites coming back to the tree when they believe due to jealousy of seeing those who were once Gentiles reaping the benefits of Abraham’s blessings.


25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel  until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;

26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”

27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

The Fullness of the Gentiles

The “fullness of the Gentiles” goes back to the blessing Jacob spoke over Ephraim in…


17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.

18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”

20 He blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’”

Now, check out the Hebrew in the latter part of verse 19:

The “multitude of nations” in Genesis 48:19 are quite literally the “fullness of the Gentiles” as reiterated in Romans 11. What I find rather ironic is that Darby actually translated this same passage of Scripture as:

GENESIS 48:19 But his father refused and said, I know, my son, I know: he also will become a people, and he also will be great; but truly his younger brother will be greater than he; and his seed will become the fulness of nations. [sic](DARBY)

Perhaps Darby just understood the meaning of the Hebrew word “melo” (Strong’s #4393), which means “fullness” but completely missed the connection Paul was making to it? I don’t know, but this is how God made a people “who were not a people,” into the people of God, which is Israel, as the apostle says in…


23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

25 As He says also in Hosea, “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”

26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

“God’s people” all through the Bible is a reference to Israel. In Romans 9, Paul quotes Hosea, describing the fullness of the Gentiles who were not a people, becoming a people, even the sons of the living God. When the fullness of the Gentiles come into covenant—thus being grafted into the tree—then all Israel will be saved! This is WHY we are grafted into Israel, the cultivated olive tree and brought into the commonwealth, becoming joint-heirs of the promise. Again, contrary to the usual accusations of a typical seminary trained, and thoroughly indoctrinated Dispensationalist, this is NOT “Replacement Theology.” No one is REPLACING anyone in this scenario. And no one is stealing the blessings of another either. When I married Sheila, I also adopted her son Jeremiah. He then became part of my family. He has my name and will be the heir of anything my family has to offer. He now carries my identity and wears a new name on the back of his baseball jersey. So also, though we may not have blood-ties to Abraham, we have been adopted. We do NOT replace Israel, just as my son did not replace me. We retain our ethnic heritage, but now have a new identity. My son Jeremiah still has “Garcia blood” in his veins, but he now identifies himself as a “Skiba.” So also, we have what ever ethnicity running through our veins, but just like people such as Caleb and Ruth, we now IDENTIFY ourselves with the commonwealth/family/cultivated olive tree that is Israel. This is a joining not a replacing.

Although it is not how the “official doctrine” is defined, THIS truly is Replacement Theology:

There are now only two types of people: Those saved (thus grafted either BACK into the cultivated olive tree, or newly grafted into it) and those not saved (whether natural Israelite or Gentile, both have been removed from – or never were a part of – the cultivated olive tree):

Once you realize that as a believer in Yeshua, you have been grafted into Israel, the whole Bible suddenly comes alive. In other words, Galatians is not the only book aimed at you. Speaking of… I am more convinced now than ever before that unless you spend at least a full year studying the Torah, you will be completely clueless concerning the writings of Paul, who by the way kept the Torah and taught others to do the same.

When you realize what Peter was warning about in 2 Peter 3:14-18 concerning the twisting and distorting of Paul’s writings, leading to the “ERROR of lawLESSness” and you combine it with the understanding of the “church in the wilderness” and the truth concerning the “fullness of the Gentiles,” it becomes that much easier to see what James was talking about concerning faith without works and what John was saying in 1 John 2 – 5 concerning obedience to YHWH. The WHOLE BIBLE is in perfect harmony with itself, telling us an amazing story from Genesis to Revelation about YHWH, His Bride and His plan to redeem and spend eternity with her.

See also, God’s Love Language.

– Rob Skiba

One Response to “Church in the Wilderness and the Fullness of the Gentiles”

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