Will the True Israel Please Stand?
Most evangelicals believe that the nation Israel today continues to be God’s chosen people. This is why they would always support the policies of Israel, believing that they have to lest God’s curse descend on them. But is this what Holy Scripture teaches? Let us look at what the Bible actually says.
Christ, the True Israel of God
Christ is Abraham’s “offspring”:
|Genesis 22:17-18: “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”||Galatians 3:16: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.“|
Matthew interpreted Israel’s history as fulfilled in the life and death of Christ:
|Exod 4:22-23: “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.’” Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”||Matt 2:15: “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'”|
|Pharaoh sought to kill the baby who was to become mediator of the old covenant.||Matt 2:16-18: Herod sought to kill the baby who was to become mediator of the new covenant.|
|Israel crossed the sea, called a “baptism” by Paul in 1 Cor 10:1-2.||Matt 3:13: Jesus went into the river to be baptized.|
|Exod 40:38: The cloud, the Spirit of God, hovered over the Israelites in their journey.||Matt 3:16: The Spirit hovered over Jesus at his baptism.|
|Num 32:14: Israel was tempted in the wilderness for 40 years.||Matt 4:1: Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days.|
|Exod 19:2-3: Moses read the old covenant to Israel at Mount Sinai.||Matt 5:1: Jesus explained life in the new covenant on a mountain.|
|Isa 42:1; 44:1: Isaiah ascribes God’s chosen “Servant” in whom he delights to Israel.||Matt 12:18 (cf Matt 3:17): Matthew ascribes Isaiah’s “Servant” to Jesus.|
|Isa 53:4: Isaiah’s “Servant” “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”||Matt 8:17: Jesus “took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”|
All of the Old Testament was about Christ:
Luke 24:27, 44: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” and “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
The Church, the True Israel of God
John 8:39: “They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.’” Jesus tells unbelieving Jews that their father is the devil, not Abraham.
Romans 2:28-29: “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”
Romans 9:6-8: “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”
Galatians 3:7-9: “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
Galatians 3:27, 29: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.“
Galatians 4:28: “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.“ Gentile Galatian believers are children of promise, Abraham’s children.
Galatians 6:15, 16: “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
Ephesians 3:6: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.“ Gentile believers are heirs of God’s promises to Abraham.
Philippians 3:3: “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”
|Isaiah 11:12: “He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”||1 Peter 1:1: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…” James 1:1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.”|
|“Dispersion” (Grk diaspora) is typically used to describe the scattering of the Jews throughout the world (Psa 147:2; John 7:35). Since Peter and James were writing to Gentiles, they are explicitly teaching that the Church is the new Israel, the new chosen people of God.|
|Exodus 19:5-6: “You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Deuteronomy 10:15: “Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.”||2 Peter 2:9-10: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. “|
|Hosea 2:23: “And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People,‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”||2 Peter 2:10: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”|
|Jeremiah 31:33: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”||Hebrews 8:6, 10: “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better… For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”|
The Promised Land, a Type of the New Heaven and New Earth
Joshua 21:43-45: “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers”¦ Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” No earthly promise to Israel remains unfulfilled, contradicting the claim that God’s promises to Abraham still have to be fulfilled in a future millennial reign.
Old Testament believers looked forward, not to an earthly land of promise, but to a heavenly city:
Hebrews 11:10: “[Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Even Abraham, the first Israelite, did not acknowledge Canaan as his permanent dwelling place.
Hebrews 11:13, 16: The Old Testament heroes of the faith, “all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth… They desire[d] a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”
Israel’s Ceremonies, Types and Shadows Fulfilled by Christ
The Jews in the Old Testament times understood these texts as referring only to national Israel. However, today, those who say that the OT prophecies and promises refer only to Israel have an incomplete understanding of Scriptures. This is because they interpret the OT apart from the NT. In contrast, the apostles, all descendants of Abraham, understood Israel’s ceremonial laws not literalistically, but as types and shadows of Christ and his atoning sacrifice:
Colossians 2:16-17: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Hebrews 8:5, 6: “[The tabernacle priests and sacrifices] serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things”¦ But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.”
Hebrews 9:23-24: “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
Hebrews 10:1, 10: “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near… And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
The Temporal, Earthly Kingdom of David, a Type of the Eternal, Heavenly Kingdom of Christ.
John 18:36: Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Why then, do dispensationalists insist on teaching that Jesus will reign from an earthly throne in Jerusalem—a view that Jesus himself denied?
The New Testament writers also interpreted the temporal kingdom of David as a type of Christ’s heavenly kingdom:
|OT Prophecy/Promise||NT Fulfillment|
|2 Samuel 7:16: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” (God’s promise to King David).||Acts 2:30, 34-35: “God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne… For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”|
|Amos 9:11-12: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this.||Acts 15:13-18: “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord.'”|
Those who teach that the nation Israel today continues to be the chosen people of God after Christ’s first coming contradict the New Testament writers who affirm that:
- Christ, not Israel, is God’s Son;
- the Church, not Israel, is God’s chosen nation;
- Israel’s Promised Land is but a foreshadow of the Heavenly City that awaits the Church;
- the old covenant, with its covenant nation, its temple, and its civil and ceremonial laws, is only a shadow and a copy of Christ and his sacrifice, and therefore obsolete; and
- the kingdom of David is only a type of the kingdom of Christ, which is not an earthly, but a heavenly kingdom.
The Spirit-inspired New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament prophecies and promises with their fulfillment in Christ and his sacrificial work. Therefore, we who are on this side of the cross are not to interpret Scriptures with newspapers, TV, and prophecy conferences, but with Scriptures alone. Scriptura Scripturae interpres.
UPDATE: Here’s a great summary table done by Brent Gesler:
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