A Question I Was Asked:

"Will National Israel Always Be God's True People?"

The Question:

I heard somebody say that the Israel of the Old Testament now stands rejected as God's people except where certain individuals come to Christ. But surely this cannot be correct. What do you say?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Paul is addressing the mainly Gentile Christian believers at Corinth - yet he describes the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea as "our ancestors"! Why would Paul state such a thing? Very simple really, it is because post-crucifixion and resurrection, there is only one people of God.

Let me answer your question this way: If I show you, plainly from the Bible, the answer to your question, will you accept it?

Okay, we need to look at a few Scriptures:

30. “‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes the LORD and must be cut off from the people of Israel.
31. Because they have despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands, they must surely be cut off; their guilt remains on them.’” (Numbers 15:30-31).

So, if true native-born Israelites are disobedient to God they are to be "cut off" from the people. They retain their guilt, and reference is made here to the 'Lord's word' and 'commands.' This does not necessarily mean such people will never have an opportunity for salvation at any point but the Lord will not deem them true people of Israel since they are "cut off from the people of Israel."

This already shows us that there is no unconditional covenant between the Lord and National Israel.

Now let us look at something in Deuteronomy 18:

18. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.
19. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

Okay, so here we read about the great prophet who was to come. God Himself would instruct this prophet. People would be accountable for whether they would obey this prophet. God will "call to account" any who might reject this great prophet to come. This is not a reference to Joshua, who was a prophet ( Joshua 6:26; 1 Kings 16:34 ), for we later read,

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10).

So the great prophet would come in the future, that is, as one looked forwards from ancient Israel. Now let us look at something in the Book of Acts:

20. and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
21. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
22. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.
23. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’ (Acts 3: 20-23).

So, without the slightest doubt, the prophet who was to come was and is Jesus Christ.

Please note that it is repeated that any who would reject this great prophet - that is, Jesus Christ - would be "completely cut off from their people." Please now very carefully note that the Jewish people - by and large - have clearly rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. Not every single Jew of course but, by and large, the Jews have rejected Christ and the New Covenant at this present moment in time of late 2010. This is not just my opinion, this is widely accepted to be the case.

Now let us consult Romans 9:

6. It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
7. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” (Romans 9:6-7).

Okay, let us continue with this a while longer to build up to our conclusion. We should now look at four very important verses in John 11:

49. 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. (John 11:49-52, NIV throughout).

Here we have a clear prophecy that Jesus died to make the scattered people of God one people. From henceforth there would be one people of God through Isaac, the child of promise. To quote Charles D. Provan, "...since the crucifixion, both Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ are members of 'the people of Israel.'"

Now let us consider 1 Corinthians 10:1-4:

1. For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
2. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3. They all ate the same spiritual food
4. and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

Please bear in mind that this Scripture sees Paul addressing the mainly Gentile Christian believers at Corinth - yet he describes the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea as "our ancestors"! Why would Paul state such a thing? Very simple really, it is because post-crucifixion and resurrection, there are only one people of God.

Now we move on to note Paul's comments to the Galatians:

14. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
15. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.
16. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:14-16).

So the "Israel of God" are those who are in Christ, circumcision having no further meaning nor significance!

Now we must turn to Ephesians,

11. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—
12. remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
13. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
15. by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,
16. and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
17. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
18. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
20. built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Now, I submit that this should be pretty clear to all! Before Gentile believers came to Christ they had been excluded from citizenship in Israel. Now however, Christian believers from any and every nation are considered as "fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household."

Just in case the slightest doubt should still be left in the minds of a few, we still need to confirm what we are coming to see from just one or two further Scriptures:

In writing to the overwhelmingly Gentile church at Colossae, Paul could say,

11. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,
12. having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
14. having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2: 11-14).

So the Church is now Israel, inheriting all the promises which were extended to Israel.

28. A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
29. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. (Romans 2: 28-29).

There are many New Testament corroborations of this, too many to list here, for example, Israel is called 'my vineyard' in both Isaiah 5:1-7 and Jeremiah 12:7-12 but, in the New Testament, Luke makes quite a clear reference to this in the 20th chapter of his Gospel:

9. He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.
10. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
11. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed.
12. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
13. “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
14. “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
15. So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?
16. He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” (Luke 20: 9-16).

Here the son of the vineyard owner is clearly Jesus (something refuted by not a single reputable Bible commentator). He is killed by the vineyard tenants (the Jews), thereafter the owner of the vineyard (God) takes the vineyard from them and gives it to others. The vineyard becomes passed on to others without regard to racial descent.

Just one more quick example of this strong New Testament teaching before we move on:

Israel is the 'wife' or 'bride' of God in such Scriptures as Isaiah 54:4-7, Jeremiah 2:2-3, Ezekiel 16: 1-3, 32 and in Hosea 1:2-6. But in Jeremiah 3:6-8, the inspired text states, 'I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of her adulteries.' (Jeremiah 3:8a), and in Hosea 2:2-3 we may read, 'Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife and I am not her husband.' (Hosea 2: 2a), this clearly referring to Israel. Yet in both 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 and Ephesians 5:25-32, it is the church who are betrothed to Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul states, 'I promised you to one husband, to Christ.' Then in Revelation 19:7-10 we see that it is true believers who are invited to the 'marriage supper of the Lamb.'

Okay, I would suggest that there would seem to be little excuse for rejecting this teaching, but now, what of physical, national Israel? Is there any possible further place for them? The logical conclusion would seem to be: Absolutely not, unless they come to Christ and this is indeed what the Scriptures teach. As a physical nation, Israel is now divorced by God. But there is good news. Paul the Apostle shows that, because of God's great faithfulness (and despite their own almost complete faithlessness), God will - apparently right at the end of time - open a door to physical Israel and a huge and most successful work of evangelism will finally be done among them.

25. I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in,
26. and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27. And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

28. As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs,
29. for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
30. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience,
31. so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.
32. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:25-32).

This time has not yet arrived and please don't believe anybody who tells you that it has! Even now, this remains in the future, maybe even the distant future, but eventually a great work will be done among the Jews who will finally accept Christ in huge numbers. Also, it would seem obvious that the future evangelistic work which will reap such a huge harvest will apparently be carried out by Gentile Christians; interesting for, traditionally, Jews have always rejected any religion or philosophy coming from a non-Jewish source.

I hope that all of the above indeed answers this question. Indeed, the promises of Israel are now fully received and appropriated by the Church of Jesus Christ (I am not talking denominationally, of course). The Scriptures leave us absolutely no room for doubt on this most vital issue.

Most of the above would not cause too much of a problem to most Christians, especially reformed Christians; only one group (very large in the US but small elsewhere), would object, that is, dispensationalist-oriented Christians. Because of the peculiar make-up of dispensationalist theology, it must continue to insist that God still actively works with national Israel. I would respectfully plead with my several sincere dispensationalist friends to look at this topic again since the Holy Scripture appears to be quite clear.
Robin A. Brace. November, 25th 2010.