Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd who came to save His sheep. We as Christians consider ourselves His sheep. But who were the sheep? Was it only the 12 tribes of Israel? Were the Gentiles solely part of the 12 tribes? Let’s find out.
John 10 “14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
The sheep are those who know Jesus and believe in Him. But Christ spoke of two flocks of sheep and that He would make them one flock with one shepherd. Some believe that these are the two houses of Judah and Israel – referring to the 12 tribes of Israel. They use this verse below supporting their viewpoint:
Matthew 10 “5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.“
So according to Christ’s words, the sheep would only be Israelites and not any Gentiles or Samaritans. But if we read the context of that passage, where was the geography of that particular gospel mission? It was only within Israel and not outside!
Matthew 10 “23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Jesus told the Jewish apostles that they would be persecuted when they preached to the Israelites within Israel but that they would not finish preaching in the towns of Israel but be scattered. They would not preach to any Gentiles or Samaritans in that mission until they had to flee Israel.
When we read the book of Acts, we see that happening during the persecution of Stephen. Up until that time they only preached to the lost sheep of Israel within their nation.
Acts 8 “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria….4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there……14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit”
So then AFTER the cross, we have a big shift in the Gospel mission. They leave Jerusalem and go into Judea and Samaria. They make disciples of Samaritans who are the worst enemies of the Jews! Later on, in Acts 10, we see that Peter needed a BIG vision 3 times to convince him to go to a Gentile (Cornelius). If the lost sheep included these Gentiles in Matthew 10, then there was no need for the vision to Peter.
Therefore AFTER the cross, Jesus Christ’s gospel was EXPANDED now to go to the Samaritans and the Gentiles. It was not only the lost sheep of Israel but to ALL nations.
Therefore the “lost sheep of Israel” in Matthew 10 DID NOT include the Samaritans or the Gentiles.
Jesus NEVER told the disciples to go to Samaritans or Gentiles before the cross! Its because the law forbade any blessing to those who were outside the covenant of Israel. The Gentiles and Samaritans were outside the covenant and not part of Israel’s sheep.
But when Jesus died on the cross, the law was canceled and His blood removed the barrier between the Jews and the rest of the world. Anyone could be saved by faith in Christ.
This is why in Acts 1, after His resurrection, Jesus appointed the Apostles to preach the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ALL ENDS of the world! He no longer spoke about the “lost sheep of Israel”. The Cross had removed the barriers of the law and made salvation available to ALL nations.
Acts 1 “6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Jews only knew about the prophecy of the restoration of Israel and all their children back to their land under One King (the Messiah) who would be their Shepherd. In John 11, the High Priest prophesied that Christ would have to die to unite the children of God both in Israel and those scattered abroad:
John 11 “9 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”
Who was the High Priest talking about? He was talking about the Jews in Israel AND the Jews in the Gentile nations who were scattered! He called them the children of God. Therefore clearly, he was NOT talking about Samaritans or Gentiles who were considered as SINNERS and ENEMIES of Israel! The only people who were the children of God were those who were circumcised Jews! The Samaritans and Gentiles were NOT the children of God according to all Law-abiding Jews.
The high priest was talking about circumcised Jews who lived in the Roman Empire, who went to the synagogues and practiced the Law of Moses. The high priest spoke about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel when all the Jews would live as one flock in the land of Israel just like it happened when they were under King Solomon.
This is why the Jews spoke these words when they thought Jesus was going away:
John 7 “34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?”
Jesus NEVER told the disciples that He would go to the Gentiles or Samaritans before the cross! So how on earth would the Jewish people and High Priest think that the “scattered” people would be Gentiles! It is IMPOSSIBLE for the scattered people to be Gentiles or Samaritans. The only children of God were the Jews under the old covenant.
The Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 was NOT a child of God but considered as the DOG. All Gentiles were considered as dogs and not the children of God. Only the Israelites were the children of God under the old covenant. Therefore the “scattered children of God” were the Jews who practiced the Law in the nations of the world. These were Jewish people like Ananias in Acts 9, who baptized Paul. There were synagogues all over the world where Jews lived in the nations – these were the scattered children of Israel.
Acts 15 “21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
Every year, these Jews would come to Jerusalem from every nation to keep the Passover.
Acts 2 “5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.”
We see that James, Peter and John were commissioned to preach to the circumcised (Jews) and Paul was sent to the uncircumcised (Gentiles)
Galatians 2 “ they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.”
Peter and James both wrote exclusively to the SCATTERED 12 tribes of Israel in the nations!
James 1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:”
1 Peter 1 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia”
These were the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel who were circumcised believers and the Gentiles who died during the tribulation were a SEPARATE group already in heaven while these Jews were being sealed with the Spirit on the earth.
Revelation 7 “4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel…..After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Paul was preaching to the Gentiles before these 144,000 were sealed. The fact that pagans who were uncircumcised and outside Israel’s covenants could be included in Christ was a MYSTERY hidden from all generations until the Holy Spirit revealed it to the Apostles!
Ephesians 3 “4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
Therefore it is clear that the high priest was NOT talking about the Gentiles when he referred to the scattered children of Israel.
When Paul the Apostle was sent by Christ to the nations, he first preached to the Jews in all these nations. But when they rejected the Gospel, he went to the GENTILES or PAGANS who lived in these nations!
Acts 28 ” 23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
The event of AD70 was the judgment of the nation of Israel when the 144,000 were redeemed from the earth in the last days after the fullness of the Gentiles came in by the preaching of Paul the Apostle. It was NOT the judgment of the Gentiles. The 1st resurrection happened in AD70 for the 144,000 and nobody else. The 2nd resurrection will happen in the future when Christ will judge ALL nations as described here:
Matthew 25 “31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
The sheep are the believers from ALL nations – both Jews and Gentiles. This includes the circumcised Jews from Israel and all the uncircumcised Gentiles from other nations who believed in Jesus Christ. The goats are the unbelievers from ALL nations – both Jew and Gentile.
Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and He is the Good Shepherd. Through Jesus, the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ receives the righteousness of God freely as a gift apart from any works.