Spiritualizing and allegorizing biblical passages relating to Israel is not new. In the 1800s there were theologians who mocked the notion of regathering of the Jews into Eretz Yisrael and the reconstitution of Israel as an independent state in her native homeland. Many bible passages relating to Israel were allegorized to relate to the Church. Today many theologians propound the same replacement theology. This type of spiritualizing hermeneutics sees the 144,000 in Rev.7:1-8 as relating to the Church and not to Israel inasmuch as according to them the ten tribes of Israel were lost in captivity more than two millennia ago.
The ten northern tribes were taken into captivity by Assyria in 722 BC. “In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”(2 Kings 17:6). There is no historical evidence of a mass return until the two southern tribes also were taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in 586 BC. Indeed, there were three waves of deportations, 606, 596, and 586 BC. At the defeat of Assyria by Babylon in 612 BC at the battle of Nineveh, the Assyrian Empire was incorporated into the neoBabylonian Empire. So Babylon inherited the Israelite exiles in the realm of Assyria. The neoBabylonean Empire was conquered by Medopersia in 539 BC. So also the Medopersia empire absorbed all Israelite exiles from both the kingdoms of Assyrian and Babylonia as these two kingdoms were incorporated into the Medopersian Empire. In 538 BC king Cyrus of Persia freed all Israelites in his dominion(Ezra.1:1-4). Only a handful of them from all the various tribes were willing to return(Ezra.2). The majority of the Israelites remained in self-imposed exile in Medopersia. The Medopersian Empire extended to Africa and India(Est.1:1). Israelites from both Northern kingdom and the Southern kingdom of Judah remained in self-imposed exile until the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD. Thus began the final scattering of the Israelites all over the world.
There are historians who date The Diaspora from 70 AD. Prior to 70 AD, there were Israelites exiles from the ten Northern tribes in the Indian subcontinent, China, Japan, and Central Asia. The ten Northern tribes were not lost. There are ethnic groups in China, India, and Japan who claim ancestry to the Jewish people. The Ben Menashe have begun emigrating to Israel. The Falashas Of Ethiopia are already absorbed in Israel. The Shinlung in India have petitioned the Israeli government. The Shinto Japanese claim origin from the ten Northern tribes. So also the Pashtun in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Igbos of South Eastern Nigeria. There are those who doubt the Jewishness of these various ethnic groups. Ancestry is not only determined by paternity through DNA, but by other modalities like conversion to Judaism, adoption and legality. Orthodox Jews define a Jew as any person with one grand Jewish parent. In this regard there are any number of persons who do not know they are Jews. In the OT, if a servant refuses to part with his master, and has married and begotten children, he and his children are his masters irrespective of his ancestry(Exod.21:1-6; Deut.15:12-18). There was one law for both the native Israelite and the stranger that sojourned amongst them(Exod.12:49). If these claims are false, how come the Sacred Stones of the Aros and the Shinto Japanese are inscribed with the Jewish Tetragrammaton YHWH in Hebrew letters? The Igbos celebrate the First month and the Seventh month and also circumcise their male infants on the eighth day as do the Jews. These feasts and the practice of circumcision(Brit Mila) were observed by the Igbos long before the arrival of Christianity through colonial Europeans.
The 3 million Israelites who left Egypt during the exodus were not all from the twelve tribes. There were others from the various peoples of Egypt who joined the Israelites. Israel in the wilderness was a mixed multitude. “And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.”(Exod.12:38). There were some who found it extremely difficult to continue the journey into the promised land and turned back in the wilderness. “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.”(Num.14:1-4). The Igbos claim they migrated to South Eastern Nigeria from Egypt.
It was during the reign of the Medopersian kings that all Israelites irrespective of their tribe, whether they were from the Southern kingdom or Northern kingdom were generally referred to as Jews. They were named after Judah. This should not be a surprise because Judah would be the one his brethren shall praise. Following the fall of Reuben from grace(Gen. 35:22, 49:3,4), the right of primogeniture was shared among his three brethren, Judah, Levi, and Joseph. The mantle of leadership fell on Judah(Gen.49:10). Levi received the mantle of priesthood, whilst the right of double inheritance was given to Joseph by his father Jacob in recognition of his faithfulness(Gen.48:1-22, 49:22-26). Levi and Simeon were scattered in Israel by their father Jacob in repudiation of the wrath they exhibited in their merciless massacre of the Shechemites in retaliation to the sexual violation of their sister Dinah by Hamor, the son of Shechem(Gen.34, 49:5-7). However the Levites obtained the priesthood because of their zeal for the Lord in the slaying of their brethren who apostasized in the Sinai and worship the golden calf(Exod.32:26-29, Deut.32:8-11). The mantle of priesthood originally intended for the first born male from every tribe of Israel(Exod.13:12-16, 34:19,20; Num.3:11-13) effectively executed their scattering amongst the tribes of Israel, whilst at the same time conferring the blessing of obedience to the voice of God through His servant Moses. How wonderful are the ways of God and His paths past findings?(Rom.11:33). These developments were not immediate: they took sometime to evolve.
The Israelites of the Southern kingdom of Judah were called Yehudim, men of Judah by the Babylonians. This was because the Southern kingdom of Israel was lead by the house of David who were of the tribe of Judah just as the Northern Kingdom Of Israel was referred to in Asssyrian records as the House Of Omri. Omri was one of the kings of the Northern Kingdom Of Israel. Omri was the father of Ahab(1 Kin.16:28). But we must also remember that the tribe of Benjamin was one of the two tribes alongside the tribe of Judah that constituted the Southern kingdom. So the appellative men of Judah was also applied to the Benjaminites. During the oppressive and idolatrous rule of the various dynasties in the Northern kingdom, there were some from the various tribes in the Northeast kingdom that emigrated to the Southern Kingdom. It was to prevent the return of the ten northern tribes to the Southern kingdom of Judah that Jeroboam, the son of Nebat instituted the idol worship at Bethel and Dan.
“And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth–el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth–el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth–el the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth–el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.”(1 Kings 12:26-33 ).
Neither the Assyrians nor the Babylonians deported every Israelite. They were interested in their rulers, nobles and artisans. “And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.”(2 Kings 24:14).
The poor and the downtrodden were not deported. “But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.” ( 2 Kings 25:12 ). “And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler.”(2 Kings 25:22).
So, there was never a time when there were no Israelites from various tribes in Eretz Yisrael. There were also some nobles who escaped to neighboring nations and returned afterwards.
“And when all the captains of the armies, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor, there came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men. And Gedaliah sware to them, and to their men, and said unto them, Fear not to be the servants of the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you. But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldeans that were with him at Mizpah.”(2 Kings 25:23-25).
The point I would like to prove here is that all the various tribes were represented in the land of Israel at all times albeit in very small numbers. There were Israelites whose ancestral families never left the land of Israel. During the religious revival in the reign of Josiah, all Israelites from the twelves were present in Jerusalem during the celebration of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. “And the children of Israel that were present kept the passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days. And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah was this passover kept.”(2 Chronicles 35:17-19).
There is no need for us to allegorize and Christianize the 144,000. Oh! the ten tribes were lost, therefore God must be referring to Christians. Before the commencement of the 70th week, all the ten tribes of Israel will fully be represented in the land of Israel. The 144,000 will be sealed in the land of Israel. God would not need to go to the Jews in the Diaspora to find the 144,000. He will not seal a few among the Shinto Japanese or Shinlung Indians or Igbos of South Eastern Nigeria. They will be found in the land of Israel. They will seek refuge in the Edomite wilderness during the outpouring of the wrath of God in the Day Of The Lord. “The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them.”(Micah 2:13).
That is where Jesus will meet them. It is there they will match with Him to the summit of Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”(Rev.14:1-5).
In the light of the above scenario, British-American Israelism is false. It has no biblical basis. It is founded on a faulty theological system. Replacement theology is not sustained by Scriptures neither is supersessesionism. It is based on a faulty eseigetical and allegorical hermeneutics. The Church does not, cannot, will not, and need not replace Israel, neither are the British and the Americans the so called lost ten tribes.