Israel and the Church – [Gal 3:16,26-29]

All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.


If we’re going to understand the book of Revelation, we must understand the relationship between Israel and the Church. This is the key that unlocks the door of understanding of prophecy and God’s plan for the world. That’s what this series is about. If we get Israel wrong, we get prophecy wrong.


Dispensational Premillennialists (DP) make a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, but the New Testament presents no such distinction. One has to go to the Old Testament to see that distinction. However, it’s a serious error to try and understand the OT apart from the NT. I can explain it no better than Kim Riddlebarger does in his article: “John MacArthur on Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Israel and Hermeneutics: A Few Comments”:



I think this is the third time I’ve suggested reading Riddlebarger’s article, so if you haven’t done so, please do, because it’s excellent!


If we’re going to understand the OT correctly, it must be through the eyes of the NT. To do this the other way around, to try and see it and explain through the eyes of the Jew, it can only lead to wrong conclusions about prophecy. Yet, that’s exactly what DP does. Their approach is completely backwards.


Now let’s get into our first text of this series:


Galatians 3:15-18
15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto.
16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17 Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect.
18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise.


To make his point clear, Paul gives an example from everyday life. A covenant, or a contract between men, once the deal is done, no one can legally add to it or make it void. In the same way, God made His covenant with Abraham on the basis of faith (Gal 3:6-9). For 430 years, before the law came, Abraham and his descendants received salvation according to faith. Paul’s point is, that the law, that came 430 years later, couldn’t void out the covenant that God made with Abraham. Thus salvation has always been on the basis of faith.


16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
The promises of blessing and salvation (Ge 22:17,18) were made to both Abraham, and to his seed, in the singular, referring to Christ, and not specifically to the descendants of Abraham. Jesus Himself is literally True Israel. We Christians are the “seed” of Abraham through faith in Christ, and not according to human descent, as Paul says in verse 29:


26 For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.
28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one [man] in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.


Paul also says that we are “all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus.”


All the promises to Abraham and to his descendants (Israel) are totally fulfilled in Christ. In other words, the true offspring (seed) of Abraham is not by way of human birth, but by way of Christ, through faith in Him. Jews could not claim to be true Jews just because they were born in the natural line of Abraham, as Paul says elsewhere:


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


Romans 10:12
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him:


Galatians 3:28
28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.


That the true Jew is not “who is one outwardly,” Jesus Himself confirms:


Revelations 2:9
9 I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.


Revelation 3:9
9 Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of them that say they are Jews, and they 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.


I don’t know how this can be made any clearer. There is “no distinction” between Jews and Gentiles. We are all “one in Christ Jesus,” through our common faith in Him.


Today many Christians want to make a distinction between Israel and the Church, but there is NO DISTINCTION. The only two classes of people in the eyes of God, are those who are in Christ, and those who are not. The true offspring of Abraham and the true sons of God, are those who are in Christ, who is Himself True Israel. Thus the Church is true Israel through our union with Him. Therefore, the nation of Israel has no inheritance that is separate from the Church.


The promises of the OT of a future kingdom are fulfilled in Christ, thus, in the Church. The Church is the Kingdom of Christ:


Colossians 1:13
13 who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love;


Revelation 1:5-6
5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins  by his blood;
6 and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion 9for ever and ever.


Ultimately, the promises of this kingdom are fulfilled in the Eternal Kingdom:


Revelation 21:1-2
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more.
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.


That there is no separate plan for the nation of Israel, is made really clear by Jesus Himself in the following parable:


Luke 20:9-18
9 And he began to speak unto the people this parable: A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into another country for a long time. 10 And at the season he sent unto the husbandmen a servant, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. 11 And he sent yet another servant: and him also they beat, and handled him shamefully, and sent him away empty. 12 And he sent yet a third: and him also they wounded, and cast him forth. 13 And the lord of the vineyard said, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will reverence him. 14 But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned one with another, saying, This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.15 And they cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do unto them? 16 He will come and destroy these husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. 17 But he looked upon them, and said, What then is this that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner?18 Every one that falleth on that stone shall be broken to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust.


God sent many prophets to the nation of Israel, but they rejected them and mistreated them. One after another. Finally, God sent His own Son, and Him they killed. The nation of Israel has been unfaithful, and that is why Jesus came and “destroyed” Jerusalem in AD 70. He “gave the vineyard to others,” that is, the promises and blessings were given to those who place their faith in Him, both Jew and Gentile. Jesus expands on this in Matthew 23:3738:


37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.


“your house is left unto you desolate”


This describes the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The house of Israel was left “desolate,” and deserted. There is no future plan for the nation of Israel. The promises to them are fulfilled in Christ and in the Church.


Kim Riddlebarger on Israel’s rejection of Christ:


Quote:
Jesus was rejected because the kingdom he came to bring Israel was not an earthly kingdom (John 18:36; and in Romans 14:17 Paul tells us that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”).  Israel rejected Jesus because they were seeking a national/political kingdom tied to the land promised to Abraham and to the typological kingship of David.  They were not looking for that spiritual kingdom defined in the parables of Matthew 13 which spreads into the whole world (cf. Matthew 13:32).  No, they wanted to be a great nation with a king as they had been in the past, and this meant a defeat of Rome.
In other words, the Jews wanted a geo-political kingdom much like that described by the dispensationalists as characteristic of the future millennial age.  Blinded by a zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:2), a trust in personal righteousness instead of that provided by God through faith (cf. Philippians 3:3-11) and because of the national embarrassment and harsh realities of Roman occupation, when Jesus didn’t offer or promise the Jews such a kingdom, they rejected him.
Unquote


The Apostle Peter understood their rejection of Christ and the coming destruction of Jerusalem (from his point in time). He understood God’s rejection of them. He understood what this meant for that nation. He understood that all the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ. He understood True Israel to be the Church in Christ. Note what he says in 1 Peter (perhaps with the parable of Jesus in mind):


1 Peter 2:4-10
4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 7 For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; 8 and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.


Peter understood the relationship between Israel and the Church, and it’s not the same way DP understands it. Listen to the terms Peter uses to describe the Church:


spiritual house
holy priesthood
spiritual sacrifices
elect race
royal priesthood
holy nation
people of God


These are all Jewish terms used to describe the Church. There is absolutely no question that Peter understood that True Israel is the Church. However, the Church doesn’t replace Israel; not at all. The Church, rather, is the continuation of Israel, as a spiritual nation. All the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ, who is Head of the Church.


Therefore, there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile. God does not have a separate plan for the nation of Israel, and another for the Church. They are one and the same.


The kingdom of Christ is not a Jewish kingdom of this world, but is the Church, and ultimately, the Eternal Kingdom that all of us in Christ will one day enjoy in the “new heavens and new earth” (Rev 21:1; 2 Pet 3:13; Is 65:17; Is 66:22).


Peter, as a Jewish Christian, wasn’t looking forward to a kingdom of this world, but to the Eternal Kingdom, as the writer of Hebrews confirms:


Hebrews 11:8-10
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 for he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.


Hebrews 11:14-16
14 For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. 15 And if indeed they had been mindful of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.


Hebrews 12:22-23;28
22 but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 28 Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe:


Hebrews 13:14
14 For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come.


Which is: The New Jerusalem:


Revelation 21:1-2
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more.
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.


In regard to the Hebrew texts above, the land promise and the coming kingdom, again, Kim Riddlebarger explains this very well (bold mine):


Quote:
“Reformed amillennarians have never argued that the Old Testament is “amillennial” per se.  Let’s be clear about that.  We have argued that the promise of a land given to Israel is itself typological of a heavenly kingdom which was inconceivable in the days of the patriarchs and Moses.  But we only know this because the author of Hebrews tells us as much. In other words, the New Testament tells us what the things promised in the Old Testament truly mean.
The true glories of what God promised cannot be seen until the coming of Christ–although when the New Testament looks back in this, we learn that Abraham “got it” because although he was promised a land in Palestine (Genesis 12:1-3), by faith he knew that the reality for the people of God (Jew or Gentile) was not found in any earthly promise, including the promised land.  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).  
The point is that we could never possibly understand the promise in its fullness if we regarded the original promise in Genesis 12:1-3 as the hermeneutical key to determine how we understand such things even in the light of future (and greater) revelatory light.
Dispensationalists have this completely backwards.  They say the Old Testament tells us what the promise is–a land in Palestine.  Therefore, we must take this literally (even if the New Testament tells us otherwise) or else we undermine the authority of Scripture.
We say the New Testament clarifies and amplifies the Old Testament promises in light of Christ.  It is not the amillennarian, but the apostle Paul who “spiritualizes” the land promise by extending the land promised to Abraham to the whole world after the coming of Christ (Romans 4:13).  It is not the amillennarian, but the author of Hebrews who tells us that the promise of a land in Palestine was typological of the heavenly city which Abraham desired because he saw that the land pointed him to something even greater.  Now that Christ has come, we can see why redemptive history unfolds in the manner that it does.  Promise gives way to fulfillment.  Types and shadows give way to biblical reality. And while we are speaking of the Old Testament, didn’t Joshua himself tell us that the typological promise of the land had already been fulfilled (Joshua 21:43), leading us to expect the New Testament to universalize the land promise in light of the coming of Christ?
Unquote


Conclusion
Dispensational Premillennialists view passages like Galatians 3:15-18, and this oneness with the Jews, as being limited to salvation only. They see this limitation only because of their position on prophecy, which is mostly established through their understanding of the OT. They anticipate a future a millennial kingdom because they view the OT prophecies in the same way the Jews do. In  looking for geo-political type of earthly kingdom as the Jews did in Jesus day, they’re making the same mistake they made.
When viewed without an eschatological position already in place, the NT reveals no such limitation on the unity we all have in Christ. When we consider the whole of the NT, it reveals a unity that is much broader in scope: complete. The NT reveals that all believers, both Jew and Gentile, are recipients of all the promises and blessings given to the nation of Israel, for all of those promises and blessings are fulfilled in Christ. Reason being, the promises made to Israel were ultimately, and actually, made to Christ (Gal 3:16). Our unity with Christ as believers, brings us into all those promises and blessings. Thus the Church is True Israel through the unity it has with Christ.
The Old Testament always had Christ in view. The OT Scriptures is about Christ in its entirety, from beginning to end. Christ, as revealed through the NT, is the fulfillment of the OT:


Matthew 5:17-18
17 Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished.


Ephesians 1:18-23

18 having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 and what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20 which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.