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The Israel of God (9)

This is a series of articles Missionary-pastor Martyn McGeown published in his weekly bulletin. It addresses the proper (Reformed) way to understand God's OT church (Israel) in the light of the NT Scriptures, so that we see the unity of the church in both the OT and NT.

The Israel of God (1i)

The Israel of God (Part 1, #9 - concluded)

Who is the nation of Israel to whom God makes a promise in Jeremiah 31? Jesus gives us a very clear indication in Matt. 21:43: "Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." We do not have to look too far to discover which nation that is: it is the church, the church of Jesus Christ, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, who are the seed of Abraham, the children of God, the Jews of the New Testament. Peter writes to the church in these words: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ... which in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God" (I Peter 2:9-10). Holy nation is the name given to Israel in Exodus 19:5-6. Peter now applies it to the church! The church is the holy nation, and since the church will never be destroyed, in her and not in the modern post-1948 state of Israel, the promise of Jeremiah 31 is fulfilled. Titus 2:14 is also instructive: to the churches in Crete Paul attributes the title "peculiar people," a name taken from Exodus 19:5!

One more thing must be noticed in Jeremiah 31. The promise of the new covenant is made to "the house of Judah and the house of Israel" (v. 31). In this covenant with the house of Israel God will "put [his] law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts and will be their God and they shall be [his] people ... " (v. 33). Moreover, God promises to the same house of Israel: "I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more" (v. 34).  How is this new covenant promise fulfilled, and to whom? The answer is found in Hebrews 8:6-13. This covenant has nothing to do with the house of Israel as a distinct entity from the church of Jesus Christ. The church of Christ, which enjoys the knowledge of God and forgiveness of sins, is the house of Israel. 

Are there, then, no promises to the political entity known as Israel? The answer is an unequivocal no. Will Israel as a political entity ever rebuild her temple and worship God as she did in the Old Testament? That is very unlikely, but if she does manage to build a temple in Jerusalem and institute a priesthood, offer sacrifices and celebrate the feasts, it will be just another sign of Israel's apostasy from God.  If the sacrifices of the wicked were abominable to God in the Old Testament (Prov. 15:8, 21:27) how much more abominable would the recommencing of animal sacrifices be in the future after the one, only sacrifice of the Son of God?

All the promises of God are in Christ (II Cor. 1:20). All the promises of God were made to Christ, as the Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Therefore, there can be no promise of any kind for any unbeliever outside of Jesus Christ. The calling of the Jew, as the calling of the Gentile, is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ and join the church of Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free, where there is no difference, and as many as walk according to this rule, peace be upon them and mercy!"   For they are the Israel of God!  


[1] From Pastor’s blog, http://www.limerickreformed.com/blog/item/588-the-israel-of-god-part-2

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The Israel of God (1h)

Is Israel Not a Nation Forever? Part 1, #8

Here is the clearest passage on the perpetuity of Israel's nationhood: "If those ordinances [sun, moon and stars, etc] depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus saith the LORD: if heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD" (Jer 31:36-37).

That seems clear: the state of Israel, as a political entity, is under the eternal blessing of God, and will always be a nation. But we should notice a few things.

First, what does the text mean by nation? The Hebrew word is goy, the plural of which, goyim, means the Gentiles. A nation would appear to be a distinct people with a head, or a people with a king.

Second, how did God keep this promise in a way to satisfy the most literalistic premillennial dispensationalist? Israel only became a nation at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. God declared Israel to be a peculiar treasure (Hebrew: segulah; Greek: laos periousios) and a kingdom of priests and an holy nation (Hebrew: goy qadosh; Greek: ethnos hagion) (vv. 5-6). Was Israel a nation when the 10 tribes were carried away into captivity; was Israel a nation when the remaining 2 tribes were carried into Babylon for 70 years; was Israel a nation when she existed as a  plaything for the nations from the return to the time of the Roman empire, and when no Davidic king ever sat on the earthly throne in Jerusalem again; was Israel a nation when she was destroyed in AD 70; and was Israel a nation from AD 70 to AD 1948/1967; and is Israel today a nation?

Third, the promise of Jeremiah 31:36-37 is made explicitly to the seed of Israel, and not to the corporate entity known as Israel. The seed of Israel includes all those, whether ethnic Jew or ethnic Gentile, who believe in Jesus Christ, and excludes all ethnic Jews (and all ethnic Gentiles) who reject Jesus Christ. Since the Jews who returned to Israel in AD 1948 were unbelievers, Jeremiah 31 has nothing to do with them. 

But what of the nationhood of Israel? In which people is this promise fulfilled if not in the unbelieving Jewish state in the Middle East?   And is there a king to sit on David's throne? The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the son or seed of David and that He sits on David's throne: "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32-33). Premillennial Dispensationalists are fond of asserting that this prophecy will be fulfilled in a future millennial reign. First, 1.000 years is not forever, and Luke 1 demands that Jesus rule forever over the house of Jacob. And, second, Acts 2 teaches that Jesus is already sitting on the throne of David in heaven (vv. 30, 33-36).                               

To be continued …


[1] From Pastor’s blog, http://www.limerickreformed.com/blog/item/588-the-israel-of-god-part-2

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The Israel of God (1g)

The Israel of God (Part 1, #7) - Is Israel Not a Nation Forever?

Premillennial Dispensationalism in an effort to promote a Jewish kingdom after the "church age" refers us to the Old Testament. However, we should note that the New Testament is the authoritative interpretation of the Old Testament. It is a fundamental error to interpret the Old Testament without the New Testament.  

The New Testament clearly teaches that the Old Testament period was a time of types and shadows, and the New Testament, with the coming of Christ, is a time of fulfillment. "Let no man judge you in meat or in drink or in respect of an holy day ... which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Col. 2:17). The whole book of Hebrews teaches us that the sacrifices, the tabernacle, the temple and its furniture, the feast days and indeed all other aspects of Old Testament worship have been fulfilled in Christ. This should give us pause when we seek to interpret Old Testament passages about temples, feast days and sacrifices! 

Let me illustrate with an example from Amos 9:11, "in that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen ..." If you read that passage without the light of the New Testament, and if you insisted on taking it literally, what would you make of it? Would you come to the conclusion that it means that in the New Testament age the Jews and Gentiles together will form one people of God or one church, and that believing Gentiles will not need to be circumcised or keep the law of Moses to be saved? Well, that is exactly how James interprets it at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, an interpretation approved by the delegates (Peter, Barnabas, Paul, etc) and the Holy Spirit Himself (Acts 15:14-19, 28)!

Only a fool would suggest that James took a totally irrelevant passage to prove a controversial point and twisted it to give it a meaning it never had in Amos' prophecy. A humble believer must say to himself: "Clearly, my understanding of the Old Testament is flawed and carnal. I will learn from this example how to interpret the Old Testament in light of the New."                                       

To be continued …

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The Israel of God (1f)

The Israel of God - Part 1, #6

In Galatians 4, Paul teaches that the Old Testament people of God (elect Israel) is essentially the same people as the New Testament church (consisting of elect Jews and Gentiles in one body). How so? The Old Testament people of God (elect Israel) was a child, who, although the heir of God's promises, was in her minority, and could not receive the promises until the time of her maturity. During her minority period (legally as a child) she was under the law (a schoolmaster, 3:24; tutors and governors, 4:2). With the coming of Jesus Christ the same minor child (elect Israel) matures into the church of Jesus Christ. The church does not replace or supersede Israel: the church is Israel in her maturity, having thrown off the yoke of the law, and having entered into the enjoyment of her inheritance. That is why, for example, elect Israel in the Old Testament did not enjoy the fullness of the Spirit and many other blessings purchased by Jesus Christ and poured out upon His people from His exalted position at God's Right Hand (see Acts 2:33).  

Later in the same chapter Paul uses an allegory to illustrate a spiritual truth. In Paul's allegory there are two covenants, two Jerusalems, two mountains and two kinds of sons of Abraham. FIrst, there is "the Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage to her children" (v. 25). This refers to unbelieving Judaism, whether in Paul's day, or in the modern state of Israel, and it refers to all persons (whether Jews or Gentiles) who seek salvation in the law of God and not through faith alone. These are the ones "born after the flesh" (v. 29) who persecute the true children of God. These are the children of the bondwoman, Hagar (vv. 30-31) who are "cast out" (v. 30). Second, there is "Jerusalem which is above" and she is "free, which is the mother of us all" (v 26). The heavenly, spiritual, true Jerusalem of above gives birth to children who are "the children of promise" (v. 28). We (that is, all believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of ethnicity) are children of the free! (v. 31).

Thus Paul identifies as the children of Abraham, the children of Jerusalem, the children of the free all those (and those only) who believe in Jesus Christ. All others, even if they have an impeccable ethnically Jewish pedigree, are cast out as children of the flesh, not counted for the seed.

Paul has one more thing to say before he closes his epistle to the Galatians: "and as many as walk according to this rule, peace upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). What does Paul mean (and more importantly what does the Holy Spirit mean) by "the Israel of God" here? To answer that we need to examine the text carefully. First, Paul speaks a benediction (a blessing of peace and mercy) upon "as many as walk according to this rule." The word 'rule" is canon, which is a rule, standard or measuring rod. The immediate context, as well as the argument of the entire letter, demands that the rule be that of making no distinction in the church between believing Jew and Gentile, a rule which Paul defends in this letter. In Christ circumcision is nothing (v. 15; see also v. 6, as well as 2:11-21). As many as walk according to that rule are partakers of the apostolic blessing of peace and mercy. All those who walk against that rule, by making in the church a distinction between Jew and Gentile, are denied the blessing of God. Thus there is no blessing for the Judaizers, but the anathema or curse (1:8-9; 3:10, etc).  

Now, what about the Israel of God? If Paul meant unbelieving Israel as she existed as a nation in his day, he would be violating his own rule. How could Paul pronounce the apostolic blessing of peace and mercy upon unbelieving Israel? The meaning is clear: the Israel of God is (as we have seen in studying many passages) the church, that is, the body of believers made up of Jews and Gentiles. In other words, the phrase "and the Israel of God" is a further explanation of "as many as walk according to this rule" and could be translated, "even the Israel of God" (the Greek word kai can mean "and" or "even" in the NT).                                                                                                       To be continued ….

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The Israel of God (1e)

The Israel of God - Part 1, #5
by Missionary-pastor Martyn McGeown
(Limerick Reformed Fellowship)

God’s promises were to Abraham's seed. Galatians 3:16 identifies Abraham's seed: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Furthermore, Paul identifies the seed of Abraham as Jews and Gentiles (there is no difference, v. 28) who believe in Jesus Christ: "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29).  

Paul explains it in Ephesians 2-3. The Gentiles in Ephesus had, before their conversion, been "without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." But now, because of what Christ had done in His life and death, "ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (vv. 12-13). Paul's conclusion: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone" (vv. 19-20).

It is not, however, something new that Gentiles are brought into the people of God. This happened frequently in the OT, but to become a Jew in the Old Testament required circumcision (for males). The "new" aspect is that Gentiles are equal with the Jews through faith in Christ. Paul explains this "mystery" in chapter 3: "the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (vv. 4-6). Paul does not say that the concept "church" was unknown in the OT, or that the idea of the conversion of the Gentiles was hidden. He teaches that it was not known in the same way as it is today. Gentiles are partakers in God's promise in Christ through faith! 

                                                                                       To be continued …

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The Israel of God (1d)

The Israel of God - Part 1, #4

by Rev.M.McGeown, missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland

Whatever God may have promised the Jews in the Old Testament  He did not (emphatically He did not) promise that to the reprobate, unbelieving majority of Israel, the "of Israel," but only to the elect, and if a person can legitimately claim to be a Jew, an Israelite, an Israelite indeed, a child of Abraham, as all believing Christians can do, as we have seen, he or she can legitimately claim all the promises of God. And we do! No promises were ever made to the reprobate carnal seed; and therefore that reprobate carnal seed have no right to expect any blessings from God. 

But, does this mean that God has finished with the Jews, those whose ethnicity is Jewish? No. Romans 11 teaches that throughout the New Testament age God is gathering a remnant of elect, believing Jews. Paul himself is proof of this (v. 1). God's decree of election and reprobation is being worked out among the Jews: "there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (v. 5); "the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (v. 7). Throughout the New Testament age elect Jews and elect Gentiles are engrafted into the organism of God, which is fundamentally Christ Himself (see John 15:1ff). Paul explains God's way with the physical descendants of Israel this way: "blindness [or sovereign hardening] in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in and so all Israel shall be saved" (vv. 25-26). This does not mean that after the Gentiles have been gathered God will return to His "programme with the Jews" (which supposedly has been postponed for some 2,000 years already) but that in the way of gathering the elect Gentiles and (at the same time) a remnant from the Jews "all Israel shall be saved." The word "so" in verse 26 does not mean "then." Romans 11 says nothing about a reconstituted Jewish state, a rebuilt temple or a mass conversion of ethnic Jews just prior to the Second Coming. Believing Jews and Gentiles together make up the church of Jesus Christ throughout the New Testament age. There is not, and there never shall be, another way of salvation. 

In Romans 4 Paul teaches that the uncircumcision (a term used for the Gentiles) are the children of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ. Abraham is "the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised" (v. 11). In fact, Paul repudiates the notion that those who are of the law (those who rely on law obedience to be saved, i.e., unbelieving Jews) are the heirs of the promise: "if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect ... therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (vv. 14, 16). So, we, the Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, are the children of Abraham. We, not the unbelieving, Christ-rejecting, ethnic Jews, can legitimately claim Abraham as our father, and with him we can claim all the promises made to him (including inheriting the world, v. 13). 

Next we turn to the epistle to the Galatians. In Galatians 3, having proved that Abraham was justified through faith in exactly the same way as believers in all ages, Paul declares, "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith the same are the children of Abraham ... so then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (vv. 7, 9). On the other hand, the unbelieving Jews and Judaizers (and all those today, whether Jew or Gentile, who teach and believe in justification by works) are under the curse (v. 10), from which curse Christ has redeemed us (v. 13). Thus, "the blessing of Abraham [has come] on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (v. 14). 

Verse 16 is pivotal. To whom was the promise of Abraham made and what was the promise? Consider these texts: "unto thy seed will I give this land" (Gen. 12:7); "all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever" (Gen. 13:15); "unto thy seed have I given this land" (Gen. 15:18); "and I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (Gen. 17:7-8) and "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." 

Did you notice the recurring word "seed" and the fact that "seed" is singular, not plural? Modern translations of the Bible have obscured this truth by translating seed as descendants. The fact that God makes promises to Abraham's "seed" is highly significant. It identifies for us the ones to whom God's promises are made.

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The Israel of God (1c)

The Israel of God - Part 1, #3

In Revelation 2-3, the ascended Lord Jesus Christ sends messages to seven churches existing in Asia Minor in the first century AD, churches consisting of believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. To the church in Smyrna the ascended Christ declares, "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan" (2:9). To the church in Philadelphia Christ says something similar: "Behold I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee" (3:9).  Here is the assessment of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself: the unbelieving Jews lie when they claim to be Jews. They are not Jews. They are the synagogue of Satan. Satan is the accuser of the brethren and the adversary of God. Strong words from the Son of God! Who are the Jews, then? The Christians, as we call them today, are the Jews. Is that Anti-Semitism? Only if the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is an Anti-Semite!

Who are the children of Abraham? 

We have already seen from the words of Jesus that He repudiated the claim of unbelieving Jews to be the children of Abraham (John 8:44). They are not all Israel (or the children of Israel) which are of Israel! Within Israel even in the days of Christ there were children of Israel or children of Abraham. And they were found in the most unlikely places! About Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector, Jesus declared, "he also is a son of Abraham" (Luke 19:9); about a crippled woman, whom He healed on the Sabbath, Jesus declared, "this women, being a daughter of Abraham ..." (Luke 13:16); about Nathaniel, Jesus exclaimed, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile" (John 1:47). Others, such as the high priest, Caiaphas, or Judas Iscariot, were not children of Abraham, Jews or Israelites at all! 

The apostle Paul develops the concept "children of Abraham" or even "seed of Abraham" at some length, and makes it very clear that the children or seed of Abraham include all those who belong to  Jesus Christ and who make up what we call in the New Testament the "church."  We begin in the book of Romans. We have already seen that Paul restricts the term "Israel" to the elect Jews, excluding the reprobate from the number (Rom. 9:6-8). In verse 23, having developed the subject of election and reprobation at some length, Paul writes, "that [God] might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he hath afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles."  Now, notice how Paul proves his point that God elects and calls His people from Jews and Gentiles. He quotes from the prophet Hosea! ("as he saith also in Osee," v. 25). This is a quotation from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10. Peter also quotes Hosea in I Peter 2:10 and applies it to the gathering of the Gentiles. In other words, believing Gentiles gathered with believing Jews into the church in the New Testament age are called "the children of the living God" (v. 26) and "the children of Israel" (v. 27). The ethnic, unbelieving Jews, no matter what their genealogical pedigree might be, are not the children of God, not the children of the promise, not Israel and not Jews!

 


From Pastor’s blog on http://www.limerickreformed.com/blog/item/586-the-israel-of-god-part-1

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The Israel of God (1b)

The Israel of God - Part 1, #2

In the first century AD the people of Israel had become carnal, unbelieving and self righteous. John the Baptist and Jesus encountered a people proud of their ethnic heritage who had to be shaken out of their security and called to repentance. John said to the Israelites: "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt. 3:9). Ethnic Jewishness was no indication of salvation or participation in the kingdom of God. Jesus is even more explicit: "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham ... Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:39, 44). Jesus even said to fruitless Israel, "the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43).  Therefore, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, neither of whom were anti-Semitic, teach that to be a physical descendant of Abraham does not make one a true child of Abraham or a true Jew. "Jewishness" is a spiritual concept. 

Paul, another who is no anti-Semite and who is apostle to the Gentiles, makes the same kinds of assertions. 

Romans 2:28-29: "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God."

(This means that a man living in Jerusalem today, a distinguished Rabbi who can trace his line back to Benjamin himself, but who rejects Jesus Christ, is not a Jew; whereas a Christian, who believes in Jesus Christ, but who has no Jewish heritage whatsoever, is a Jew. Reader, whatever nationality or ethnicity you have, you who believe in Jesus Christ are a Jew!).

In Romans 9, Paul addresses the question: If God promised to save Israel, and if salvation is found only in Christ, why have so many Israelites stumbled at the Gospel and perished? Paul's response is to clarify or define the meaning of Israel.  "Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect, for they are not all Israel which are of Israel. Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8). 

(Do you see what Paul is teaching here? There are two kinds of people. First, there are the "of Israel." These belong in an external sense to the family of Abraham, to his descendants and to the nation of Israel. Second, there are the "Israel." These are the elect, the chosen of God, the ones to whom God promises and gives salvation. The ones who are merely "of Israel" do not belong to Israel. They are not Israel, writes Paul. In other words, none of the reprobate in Israel were Israel; they were not counted for the seed; and they were not Jews. And the same is true in every age. The reprobate “Jewish” rabbis living in Jerusalem today are not Israel, not the children of God, not Jews).

In Philippians 3:2-3, Paul writes, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."  By these terms, the Apostle means the unbelieving Jewish heretics who taught that salvation depends on being circumcised and keeping the law of Moses. Paul does not call them "Jews." He calls them the "concision." The word concision is a play on words on the word circumcision. It means mutilation! Paul continues in v. 3, "for we are the circumcision." The pronoun "we" refers to all believers in Jesus Christ, and, in the context of Philippi, refers to Gentile believers in Jesus Christ. "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Thus, unbelieving "Jews" are really mutilators of the flesh; and believing Christians, of whatever ethnic origin, are  Jews! Are unbelieving Jews, living in the modern state of Israel, any different from the evil workers and concision mentioned here in Philippians 3? In fact, we can broaden the application of these words: all who teach salvation by works, of whatever religion or church, are dogs, evil workers and the concision; and all who embrace salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone are the true circumcision, true Jews, true Israelites, truly Israel!  Is that offensive? That is the Word of God!                                                                                                …. to be continued (DV).

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The Israel of God (1a)

“The Israel of God” - Part 1, #1

That Israel is a nation before God forever is believed almost fanatically by some Christians. To deny that the modern state of Israel located in the Middle East is the people of God is heresy in some circles. Reformed Christianity teaches that the church (made up of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ) is God's chosen people. One who teaches this today in some circles will be labelled as a "replacement theologian" (you believe that the church replaces Israel!), "supersessionist" (you believe that the church supersedes Israel) or simply "anti-Semite" (you hate the Jews). 

The name "Israel" first appears in Genesis 32:38 when the name of the man Jacob was changed to Israel. The nation or people of Israel, therefore, derives its name from him. The origin of the people of God must be sought earlier, of course, in Abraham; and before that God's people were found (after Adam, Eve and Abel) among the descendants of Shem (as opposed to the descendants of Cain [Gen. 4:16-5:32]). 

Abraham was promised the land of Canaan as his everlasting possession (Gen. 13:15). However, it is clear from Genesis that Abraham never possessed the land, "no, not so much as to set his foot on" (Acts 7:5). Neither Isaac, nor Jacob, nor Jacob's sons, nor grandsons possessed the land.  The "children of Israel" were in Egyptian slavery for some 400 years. Not until the time of Joshua did possession of the land begin; and not until the time of David and Solomon did the Lord give all the land to the twelve tribes, and they did not possess it for very long. After the reign of Solomon, ten tribes split from Judah and existed as a separate kingdom for some 200 years. They were taken captive by the Assyrians and never restored. Some 150 years later, Babylon took the remaining two tribes captive and destroyed Jerusalem which remained a heap of rubble for some 70 years.  Therefore, Israel possessed the land in its entirety for only about a handful of centuries. 

After the return from captivity, Israel (as a nation) never possessed the land again. Various nations governed Israel during the so-called "intertestamentary period" (during which time Rome rose to power). By the time Jesus Christ came into the world, Israel was a miserable vassal state of the mighty Roman Empire. A generation after the resurrection of Christ Jerusalem was again destroyed and the Jews were scattered to the four corners of the earth. During that whole period no descendant of David ever sat on David's throne, although in God's covenant mercy the line of David itself was preserved unto  the coming of Christ. 

Throughout the centuries the Jews remained scattered throughout the nations, but they always retained their identity. There is no doubt that the Jews have been mistreated in history, even in nominally Christian countries. As awful as the persecution of the Jews is, we must not allow a natural sympathy for the Jews, or a rightful condemnation of such horrors as the Holocaust, to cloud our judgment on Biblical interpretation.

In 1948 Israel was declared to be a nation. In 1967 Israel, having defeated the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, annexed Jerusalem and made it her capital city. Many Christians see Israel's restoration as highly significant in God's prophetic calendar and as a sign of the Second Coming of Christ. Others are excited at the prospect of a mass conversion of ethnic Jews and even of the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple.

The land promised to Abraham must be understood in one of three ways, 1) Abraham did indeed receive the land as God promised. This is ruled out by Acts 7:5; 2) Abraham will receive the land in the future during a supposed Millennium when Abraham will be raised from the dead. This is an absurd position, and would allow Abraham to possess the land only for 1,000 years, not forever; or 3) Abraham never expected to receive the literal plot of earth called "Israel" or "Canaan," but expected to receive a heavenly Canaan, of which the earthly land was but a picture or type of the real promise. This promise he (with all believers) receives already and will receive in a greater way in the new heavens and new earth. This is the clear teaching of the Word of God (Heb. 11:9-10, 15-16; Rom. 4:13; Rev. 21:1ff., etc.)                                                       …. To be continued (DV).

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  • Reading Sermon Library
  • Taped Sermon Library

Synodical Officers

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Synodical Committees

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  • Emeritus Committee
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Contact/Missions

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Classical Officers

Classis East
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Classis West
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