2 Corinthians 6:16-18
16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore“come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord. (NET)
When we compare the scriptures at the end of this study to this passage, it doesn’t take much effort to see that Paul is applying OT Israel and the OT temple to the Church. The Church is the “temple of the living God.” That we are a spiritual temple, there is no debate — it’s a commonly understood doctrine. What’s not quite so clear among Christians – where there actually is much debate – is the significance of this truth as it relates to Israel and the Church.
Many Christians believe that the nation of Israel still has a key role in the world, that God still has a plan for that nation yet to be fulfilled. They believe that the promises and prophecies of the OT relating to Israel, are still future and separate from the Church. However, I believe that Paul – in several places – reveals Israel to have its fulfillment and continuation in Christ and His Church.
In this particular passage, Paul reveals that the true temple of God is the Church — which is spiritual in nature. The physical temple of the OT was a foreshadowing of the spiritual temple that is in Christ. The reason we are a spiritual temple is because we are a spiritual people. Just as the physical temple was a foreshadowing of the spiritual temple that was to come in Christ, so was the physical Israel a foreshadowing of the spiritual Israel that was to come in Christ. Jesus Himself is true Israel (Ga 3:16) and we are spiritual Israel in Him (Ga 3:26-29). The temple of God is now a spiritual temple, because the Israel of God is now a spiritual nation — which Paul reveals as the Church.
Peter is in agreement:
(1 Peter 2:5-10) 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 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. 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. (ESV)
All of the terms that Peter uses refer to OT Israel, but he applies them to the Church — the corporate people of God in Christ, “a people for his own possession.”
Israel rejected Jesus in unbelief, and are thus no longer regarded as the people of God as they were in the OT — for at that time, God was still carrying out His plan through them. He still had a purpose for them. However, that purpose has been fulfilled in Christ. Those who believe in Him – Jew and Gentile – are the true people God.
[Note: To be clear, God has never had but one redemptive people. There is not now, nor has there ever been, more than one true people of God. Old Testament Israel (believers and unbelievers) were the corporate people of God, in the sense that they were God’s chosen people to carry out His plan for the world.]
We can sensibly conclude, that both Paul and Peter revealed that Israel has their fulfillment and continuation in Christ and His Church. Christ is the end of true Israel, for He Himself is true Israel or new Israel. Christ alone fulfilled all the promises and prophecies relating to Israel. He did what they could not do.
The Church, in Christ, does not “replace” Israel, as opponents erroneously teach. On the contrary, Israel continues as a spiritual nation in Christ. That Israel would have its complete fulfillment in Christ was always in view, was always God’s plan. God no longer has a plan for the nation of Israel in the world. The focus now is completely on the Church, through whom God reaches the world with the gospel message. It’s up to individual Jews to recognize and accept Jesus as their Messiah, as their Lord and Savior. In Him, they become citizens of true Israel:
(Romans 9:6-9) 6 But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. 7 Neither, because they are Abraham’s offspring, are they all children. But, “your offspring will be accounted as from Isaac.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as heirs. 9 For this is a word of promise, “At the appointed time I will come, and Sarah will have a son.” (WEB)
While God’s plan for the nation of Israel is completely finished, they actually do serve one purpose in the world today. They exist to point to the fact that Christ, the Savior of the world, came through that people — through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Their presence serves as a witness to the truth of Christ, that Christianity has its roots in Israel and that the Jewish religion has its fulfillment in Christianity. There’s an interwoven connection that speaks to the world through them. Together they are a light to the world that reveals the faithfulness of God in providing a redemptive plan for all humanity.
2 Sam 7:8-14
1 Ki 6:11-13