Dispensationalism is stuck in the darkness of the Old Testament (OT). What I mean is, it doesn’t allow the light of the New Testament (NT) to provide proper interpretation. It doesn’t allow the light of Christ to shine on OT Israel. All truth is Christ-centered. All correct theology is Christ-centered. All truth and all theology is NT-centered. All doctrines of the Christian faith must begin and end with the Testament of the Christian faith, which is the New Testament. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt 5:17). He came to fulfill the covenant promises and prophecies relating to Israel (Ga 3:7-29; Ro 9:6-12; Ro 2:28-29; 1 Pe 2:4-10; book of Hebrews). He came to fulfill all things Israel. National Israel was but a type and shadow of Christ and His Church. As the Church – in Christ – of whom He is Head, we share in His fulfillment.
Dispensationalists are opposed to the idea that Christ and His Church are the New Israel of the New Covenant (Fulfillment Theology). But that’s because they interpret Israel according to an OT understanding. This results in a deeply flawed theology, one that fails to see the continuity of the Old and New Testaments, that it’s about one redemptive people, which continues in Christ in the form of His Church. There are not two peoples of God, and never has been. There is not one plan for the Church and a separate plan for the nation of Israel. In both Testaments, Christ’s Church is always in view as Israel’s completion and full end in Christ. This is where Dispensationalism misses it and has confused a lot of Christians with its two people theology. It makes a certain distinction between Israel and the Church where there is none. Israel is not “replaced,” as many dispensationalists claim that Fulfillment Theology teaches — but continues in Christ as a spiritual people and a spiritual nation, which is the Church in Him. God’s plan for Israel is totally fulfilled.
Israel, Seed of Abraham
(Isaiah 41:8-9) — 8 But thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend, 9 thou whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee and not cast thee away; (ASV)
(Genesis 22:17-18) — To Abraham: 17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (ASV)
Fulfilled in Christ:
(Galatians 3:16, 26-29) — 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……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. (ASV)
Christ, seed of Abraham: This is one of the most important passages in the NT in regarding the true nature of Israel in the New Covenant. Here Paul reveals that the prophecies relating to Israel are fulfilled in Christ and His Church. He identifies Christ as the true Israel (New Israel) of the New Covenant. When the covenant promises to Abraham were made, it’s clear that the nation of Israel was being referred to. However, through the Apostle Paul, the light of the NT reveals that it was Christ who was actually and ultimately in view. As true Israel, He is a nation of One. The physical nation of Israel is reborn in Christ as a spiritual nation, which is the Church — as Paul reveals in Galatians 3:29. We who are in Christ are Israel (seed) in Him. In other words, the Church is spiritual Israel in Christ. Jesus and His Church in Him, fulfill all things Israel.
There are a large number of passages in the NT that confirm Israel’s true identity as being Christ (and the Church in Him), but for the remainder of this study we’re just going to look to the Gospels:
Israel My Son
(Hosea 11:1) — 11 When Israel was a young man, I loved him like a son, and I summoned my son out of Egypt. (NET)
Fulfilled in Christ:
(Matthew 2:14-15) — 14 Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (NET)
Christ My Son: Matthew reveals that, what was identified as Israel in Hosea, was actually and ultimately referring to Christ. He plainly states that Jesus fulfilled this OT prophecy. Not only was it a reference to God leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, but it was also a prophecy regarding Christ. He fulfilled that prophecy. He fulfilled the covenant promises and prophecies regarding Israel. He is the New Israel of the New Covenant. Old Testament Israel always had Christ in view as to what they would become in Him — which is a spiritual people and and a spiritual nation, which is the Church.
Israel My Servant, My Chosen
(Isaiah 41:8-9) — 8 “You, my servant Israel, Jacob whom I have chosen, offspring of Abraham my friend, 9 you whom I am bringing back from the earth’s extremities, and have summoned from the remote regions – I told you, “You are my servant.” I have chosen you and not rejected you. (ASV)
(Isaiah 43:10) — 10 You are my witnesses,” says the Lord, “my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may consider and believe in me, and understand that I am he. No god was formed before me, and none will outlive me. (NET)
(Isaiah 45:3-4) — 3 I will give you hidden treasures, riches stashed away in secret places, so you may recognize that I am the Lord, the one who calls you by name, the God of Israel. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, Israel, my chosen one, I call you by name and give you a title of respect, even though you do not recognize me. (NET)
(Isaiah 44:1-2) — 1 “Now, listen, Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!” 2 This is what the Lord, the one who made you, says – the one who formed you in the womb and helps you: “Don’t be afraid, my servant Jacob, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen! (NET)
(Isaiah 49:3-7) — 3 He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.” 4 But I thought, “I have worked in vain; I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.” But the Lord will vindicate me; my God will reward me. 5 So now the Lord says, the one who formed me from birth to be his servant – he did this to restore Jacob to himself, so that Israel might be gathered to him; and I will be honored in the Lord’s sight, for my God is my source of strength – 6 he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel? I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.” 7 This is what the Lord, the protector of Israel, their Holy One, says to the one who is despised and rejected by nations, a servant of rulers: “Kings will see and rise in respect, princes will bow down, because of the faithful Lord, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.” (NET)
(Isaiah 53:3) — 3 He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. (NET)
Here in Isaiah 49:7 and 53:3, even within the same book, “the despised and rejected” refer to both Israel and to Israel’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Even dispensationalists will readily agree that Isaiah 53 is about the suffering Savior.
(Isaiah 42:1-7) — 1 “Here is my servant whom I support, my chosen one in whom I take pleasure. I have placed my spirit on him; he will make just decrees for the nations. 2 He will not cry out or shout; he will not publicize himself in the streets. 3 A crushed reed he will not break, a dim wick he will not extinguish; he will faithfully make just decrees. 4 He will not grow dim or be crushed before establishing justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait in anticipation for his decrees.” 5 This is what the true God, the Lord, says – the one who created the sky and stretched it out, the one who fashioned the earth and everything that lives on it, the one who gives breath to the people on it, and life to those who live on it: 6 “I, the Lord, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand. I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, and a light to the nations, 7 to open blind eyes, to release prisoners from dungeons, those who live in darkness from prisons. (NET)
Again, even dispensationalists will agree that this passage (Is 42:1-7) refers to Israel’s Messiah, who is the Christ. Yet, in this same book of Isaiah, Israel is identified as God’s “servant” and “chosen.”
Fulfilled in Christ:
(Matthew 12:15-21) — 15 Now when Jesus learned of this, he went away from there. Great crowds followed him, and he healed them all. 16 But he sternly warned them not to make him known. 17 This fulfilled what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet: 18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I take great delight. I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. 19 He will not quarrel or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. 20 He will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick, until he brings justice to victory. 21 And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (NET)
(Luke 9:35) — 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him. (NET)
Christ My Servant, My Chosen: As one can see, in numerous places in Isaiah, God’s “servant” and God’s “chosen” is identified as Israel. Yet, in Matthew and Luke, God’s “servant” and God’s “chosen” is identified as Christ. The OT scholars of Jesus’ day would have been very familiar with these terms, and they should have understood that Jesus was ultimately in view.
Israel, Light to the Nations
(Isaiah 49:1-6) — 1 Listen to me, you coastlands! Pay attention, you people who live far away! The Lord summoned me from birth; he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the hollow of his hand; he made me like a sharpened arrow, he hid me in his quiver. 3 He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.” 4 But I thought, “I have worked in vain; I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.” But the Lord will vindicate me; my God will reward me. 5 So now the Lord says, the one who formed me from birth to be his servant – he did this to restore Jacob to himself, so that Israel might be gathered to him; and I will be honored in the Lord’s sight, for my God is my source of strength – 6 he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel? I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.” (NET)
(Isaiah 60:1-3) — 1 “Arise! Shine! For your light arrives! The splendor of the Lord shines on you! 2 For, look, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness covers the nations, but the Lord shines on you; his splendor appears over you. 3 Nations come to your light, kings to your bright light. (NET)
(Isaiah 9:1-2) — 1 The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious. In earlier times he humiliated the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali; but now he brings honor to the way of the sea, the region beyond the Jordan, and Galilee of the nations. 2 The people walking in darkness see a bright light; light shines on those who live in a land of deep darkness. (NET)
Fulfilled in Christ:
(Matthew 4:12-17) — 12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been imprisoned, he went into Galilee. 13 While in Galilee, he moved from Nazareth to make his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way by the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and on those who sit in the region and shadow of death a light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (NET)
(Luke 1:78-79) — 78 Because of our God’s tender mercy the dawn will break upon us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (NET)
Luke 2:27-32 — 27 So Simeon, directed by the Spirit, came into the temple courts, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary according to the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God, saying, 29 “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: 32 a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (NET)
(John 1:5-11) — 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it. 6 A man came, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that everyone might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9 The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. (NET)
(John 8:12) — 12 Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (NET)
Christ, light to the nations: The light of OT Israel is fulfilled in Christ, who is the “true light” (Jn 1:9). Israel, who was to become a “light to the nations” (Is 49:6), where “nations come to their light” (Is 60:3), was fulfilled in Christ. Those passages referring to Israel, actually had Christ in view, and not the nation of Israel. Jewish scholars who were familiar with the OT Scriptures, would have known about these passages, and so when the Apostle John refers to Christ as the “true light,” I believe he is referencing those scriptures about Israel. I believe he was letting the people know that it’s not the nation of Israel (“their light”) to whom the nations would come, but to Christ, who is the true light and the true Israel.
What began as an ethnic, physical nation, continues in Christ as a spiritual nation (the Church). Where Jesus says that He is “the light of the world,” I believe He was referring directly to Isaiah 49:6 and 60:3 — though perhaps, not limited to these. I believe He was letting the people of Israel know that those passages are fulfilled in Him.
When you compare these scriptures with Galatians 3:16, there should be no doubt that John and Paul were revealing the very same thing, that Israel has their completion and continuation in Christ and His Church.
Jesus Fulfills Law and the Prophets
(Luke 9:28-36) — 28 Now about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up the mountain to pray. 29 Ashe was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became very bright, a brilliant white. 30 Then two men, Moses and Elijah, began talking with him. 31 They appeared in glorious splendor and spoke about his departure that he was about to carry out at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those with him were quite sleepy, but as they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 Then as the men were starting to leave, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” – not knowing what he was saying. 34 As he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!” 36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. So they kept silent and told no one at that time anything of what they had seen.” (NET)
(Matthew 5:17) — 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. (NET)
Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets. In other words, the Old Covenant. I believe the purpose of the transfiguration was to reveal that the Old Covenant was coming to an end, that it was being fulfilled in Christ of the New Covenant. This is apparent when the Father says, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!” When the cloud disappeared, Jesus was alone. Moses and Elijah were removed. This whole scene is a picture of the departure of the Old Covenant and the arrival of the New Covenant. No longer were the voices of Moses and Elijah (OC) the authority, but it’s the voice of Christ who is now the authority. We are to “listen to him!” Again, the Father refers to His Son as “my Chosen One,” an obvious reference to OT Israel, whom Christ fulfilled.
When we consider all these OT scriptures, and compare them with the related NT scriptures, an unbiased eye is forced to consider that the descriptions we looked at relating to Israel were but mere types and shadows of Christ and His Church. The Bible is one book about one Person about one people who belong to Him. There is no separation between the Old Testament and the New Testament. But rather, the NT is the fulfillment and continuation of the OT. Jesus fulfills the OT covenant promises and prophecies regarding Israel. Israel is now totally fulfilled in Christ. It continues as a spiritual nation in the form of the Church (1 Pe 2:4-10), where there is no ethnic or national distinctions (Eph 2:11-22). We are all one in Christ. We are a whole new entity, a whole new people in Him. This one people in Christ is what the OT Scriptures always had in view. This is our end as the one people of God. God’s plan for the nation of Israel has been completed in Christ and His Church — which is the New Israel of the New Covenant.
Therefore, there is no other plan for the nation of Israel. Individual Jews today are called to join the true people of God, which are those who are in Christ — who was Himself a Jew, who completely fulfilled the will of God for that nation.