Israel and the Church – [Ro 2:28-29]

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


The issue between Dispensational Premillennialists and Amillennialists is the identity of Israel and the plan of God for Israel and the Church. In so many passages Paul identifies whom God regards as a “Jew” and whom He does not regard as a “Jew.”


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.
 
“he is not a Jew who is one outwardly”
“he is a Jew who is one inwardly”


These are two of the clearest statements in the New Testament about the identity of Israel. The true Jew, who is of True Israel, is not the one who is in the physical line of Abraham (of national Israel), but who is a Jew “inwardly.” In other words, under the New Covenant God identifies the true Jew and True Israel, to be spiritual, not national.


Jesus Himself confirms that very thing in the book of Revelation when He’s addressing the Church:


Revelation 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.


Jesus indicates who is not a true Jew. Those who regard themselves as natural Jews, are not regarded as Jews in the eyes of God. Those who are of national Israel, who are in the physical line of Abraham, are no longer recognized by God. Whether Jew or Gentile, a true Jew is one who is one “inwardly,” who is one spiritually through their union with Christ, who is Himself True Israel.


God sees what He’s always seen: the fulfillment and continuation of the people of Israel is in the Person of Christ. He is the fulfillment of what God had ordained from the very beginning, that the people of Israel would have their completion in the Lord Jesus Christ. All along God ordained that the Jew would cast off their national identity, and become a new creation, a new nation in Christ, together with believing Gentiles:


1 Peter 2:5; 9-10
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……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.


Together, believing Jews and believing Gentiles become a totally new people, a totally new nationa “holy nation” – where God no longer regards ethnic Israel, but sees only one people in Christ, who all together, make up True Israel,  the Church:


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.


Under the New Covenant, God only recognizes two groups of people, those who are in Christ, and those who are not in Christ. In Christ we are a totally new creation, a new entity. Physical Israel is done away with, and emerges as a brand new spiritual nation in Christ.


National Israel was a type and shadow of the spiritual Israel that would be created anew in Christ. I don’t believe it would be inaccurate to say that national Israel was reborn as a spiritual Israel. In fact, the nation of Israel did indeed serve as a type of Christ, who would become the True Israel of God (Gal 3:16).


When we consider who God regards as True Israel today, what sense does it make that He would revert back to the Old Testament identification of Israel, and raise up a physical earthly kingdom for them, when all along God intended that Israel would find its fulfillment in Christ as a spiritual nation (the Church)? It only makes sense that if Israel was to become a spiritual nation, their kingdom would also be spiritual.


Kim Riddlebarger makes some excellent points along these same lines:


Quote:
While dispensationalists will concede that this is God’s purpose for the present age, they say Israel’s distinct role resurfaces again after the Rapture when the Gentile church is removed from the earth. This dual redemptive purpose then carries on throughout the millennial age after Christ comes back. If true, this means that it is Christ’s purpose to make the two peoples one is only temporary. God intends to divide Israel (ethnic Jews) again from the Gentiles after the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11).
Of course, this makes no sense whatsoever. In fact, such a view forces us to see the future millennial age as something completely distinct from Christ’s redemptive purpose under the New Covenant. On these terms, the as-yet future millennium marks a return to Old Testament types and shadows and ignores the fact that the reality is Christ. This not only means that redemptive history takes a giant U-turn after Christ comes back, amounting to a return to the types and shadows which preceded the coming of the Messiah, but it completely ignores the very thing Christ came to do–make the two peoples one by removing all ethnic divisions which previously divided believers! The progress of redemption takes us from promise (types and shadows) to fulfillment (anti-types), not from promise, to temporary (or transitional) fulfillment, and then finally back to the types and shadows.
Unquote


I think it’s obvious that Paul went out of his way to make it clear how God views Israel and the Church under the New Covenant. He talks so much about it in so many places. In regard to that relationship (between Israel and the Church), he uses such precise terms that we really don’t have any excuse to misread what he said.


Is there a future millennial kingdom for national Israel? When we consider everything we’ve discussed in this study, how could there be? We would have to dismantle everything Paul and Peter – and Jesus Himself – said about the identity of the Jew and of Israel. To disregard what they taught, or to assume they were only referring to salvation, is to force limitations and doctrinal error. We must allow the New Testament to interpret the Old.


Yes, there’s a future Kingdom: The Eternal Kingdom of the New Heaven and New Earth.
Yes, there’s a present Kingdom: The Kingdom of Christ, of which all believers are citizens and servants (The Church).
Yes, there’s a Kingdom we go to when we die: The Kingdom of Heaven.


But the idea that national Israel will one day see the fulfillment of an earthly kingdom, is simply out of harmony with what the New Testament teaches.


Dispensationalists teach and are looking forward to this same earthly kingdom. They view this kingdom through the eyes of the OT, which is what the Jews do today. When you think about it, doesn’t it seem rather odd that Christians would view prophecy about a future kingdom along the same lines as unbelieving Jews?


We have so much more ground to cover before we’re finished with this series, but I hope you’re already beginning to see things in a new light.


I think the NT makes it clear that ethnic, national Israel was rebirthed as a spiritual Israel, a spiritual nation. This point is so significant, I need to spend more time on it.
First of all, the idea of national Israel being reborn as a spiritual nation is revealed by Peter 1 Pet 2:5; 9-10:


1 Peter 2:5; 9-10
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……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.


All the terms in bold are Jewish terms, but are applied to all Christians, who together make up the Church. Note in particular the terms: spiritual house, elect race, holy nation.


These are clearly Jewish terms to convey a spiritual nation, which are applied to the Church. National Israel was a type and shadow of the spiritual nation of Israel that was to come in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Church is True Israel in Christ, who is Himself True Israel. The Church has its identification in Him.


We may not be able to fully understand it or explain it, but that a rebirth of national Israel took place in Christ in the form of the Church, is quite evident, as our text passage supports:


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.  (Ro 2:28-29)


What Paul describes here is the true Jew: not the physical offspring of Abraham, but the spiritual offspring of Christ – those who are of the faith of Abraham, of whom we are also spiritual offspring. These verses are directly related to what Paul reveals in Galatians:


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……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.  (Gal 3:16; 28-29)


We’ve already discussed this before, but I think we need to go into more detail.


The “promises” in verse 16 refer to the promises made by God to Abraham (Isaac and Jacob) and his offspring:


Ge 12:7
Ge 13:14-16
Ge 15:5-6
Ge 17:5-8
Ge 17:19,21
Ge 26:2-4
Ge 28:13-14
Ex 32:13
Ex 19:5


When we read these promises in the OT, it appears that God is referring directly to the physical offspring (seed) of Abraham. However, in the NT, Paul reveals the offspring (seed) that God was actually referring to, and that was Christ. Here is a case where we need the light of the NT to interpret the OT for us. This is the point I’ve been making all along, that we cannot try to understand the OT apart from the NT. We MUST interpret the OT according to the light of the NT.


Ultimately, and quite literally, the promises were spoken NOT to national Israel, but to Christ, through whom spiritual Israel was birthed. Think about this, in the OT we see the promises being made to national Israel, but the NT reveals that it was Christ who was actually in view. We, therefore, can come to no other conclusion, that Christ is True Israel.


Notice also, that the promises were spoken to Abraham. That’s significant because it’s only through Abraham that salvation comes to the world. It was through the line of Abraham that Jesus came into the world. But also, only those who are of the faith of Abraham are regarded as true offspring (seed) of Abraham. Paul deals with this in detail in Romans 4:


Romans 4:11-18
11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might be reckoned unto them;  12 and the father of circumcision to them who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had in uncircumcision. 13 For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if they that are of the law are heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of none effect: 15 for the law worketh wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there transgression. 16 For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; to the end that the promise may 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  17 (as it is written, A father of many nations have I made thee) before him whom he believed, even God, who giveth life to the dead, and calleth the things that are not, as though they were. 18 Who in hope believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, So shall thy seed be.


Paul reveals that the true offspring (seed) of Abraham are not those who are of his physical lineage, but those who share his faith.


So we see that the promises made in the OT were really referring to Christ and all those who share the faith of Abraham, which make up the Church. This is the True Israel that the NT reveals.


All things considered, there can be no doubt that national Israel was rebirthed as spiritual Israel in the Person of Christ and His Church.


Something else I want to point out in those OT promises. Included in those promises were the land promises. Jews today, as well as dispensationalists, believe that the land of Israel will be fully restored to Israel during the, so-called, millennial kingdom. However, Paul makes it clear that that those promises are already fulfilled in Christ and in the Church, where Christ reigns as our King (Col 1:13; Rev 1:5-6), and we see the ultimate fulfillment of it in the New Earth (Rev 21:1-3). The Church is the long awaited kingdom of Israel. It only makes sense that a spiritual Israel would have a spiritual kingdom. Accurate theology calls for consistency. However, this kingdom that we’re all a part of now as Christians, will be ultimately fulfilled in the Eternal Kingdom (New Jerusalem) of the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21.


We may not be able to fully understand the theology behind this spiritual rebirth of Israel, but I suggest the following as a partial explanation:


Consider the fact that Jesus Himself was an Israelite, of the tribe of Judah. Jesus fully embodied the Jewish faith. He fulfilled the will of His Father to perfection. He was the perfect Jew of ethnic, national Israel.


Thus as the perfect Jew, as the very Messiah and King and Savior of Israel, He fully represented Israel in every detail. As the perfect representative of national Israel, He died and was raised to new life for His people, fulfilling all for them what they could not do for themselves. He died as a physical descendent of Abraham, and was raised as Israel Himself, having accomplished all the will of the Father regarding Israel and the promises.

In other words, the promises to Israel were ultimately given to Christ, for He is the one and only perfect fulfillment of all that the people of Israel were to be. Thus Jesus is in every way the True Israel of God. He is a nation of one. When Jesus rose from the dead, Israel became a spiritual nation. The pure line of Israel flows in and through and from Christ. Only the spiritual children of Abraham are regarded as true children of Israel, which are those who place their faith in Christ as members of the Church.