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Israel in the New Testament
For many “there is the settled conviction that the Israel of the
Old Testament has been ‘replaced’ or ‘fulfilled’ in the Church
of the New…but the Jewish nation as a whole is no longer
God’s chosen people and must be regarded, treated and judged
like any other. The Jews as such no longer have a place in the
plans and purposes of God…I believe that Israel has a future in
God’s purposes; that He has not finished with Israel; that neither
the people nor the place have been left behind in God’s purposes.”
Today old and yet false theological schemes are emerging that challenge the biblical credentials underpinning Israel’s modern day restoration. The recent 70th year celebrations of Israel’s independence coupled with the democratic decision of the American people to move their embassy to Jerusalem has ignited intense debate in the wider Church about these things and consequently these false teachings are being asserted again. They all have one thing in common and that is that Israel’s modern day restoration enjoys no biblical significance and is nothing more than a political coincidence. The teachings of which I write are the following:
In the first the Church is now the sole expression of the purpose of God on earth and as such is the “New Israel of God.” The Jewish people, having failed God, have forfeited the promises made to them in the Abrahamic Covenant and especially those that promise them everlasting possession of the land of Canaan for the purpose of world redemption.
In the second Jesus in His own life and body fulfills all the promises that God made to the Jewish people in the Abrahamic Covenant including those that have to do with bequeathing to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.
In the last of these, that is Dominion Theology, the Church is destined to take dominion over the world and set up a type of global expression of Christendom. Once this has been achieved, in that the seven mountains of human activity have been Christianized, Jesus will come again. In other words the Church ushers in the Millennium before Jesus comes and therefore there is no need for a restored Jewish state in the land of Canaan to do so. Only a restored Church can accomplish this and thus this false teaching asserts that a new type of empowered Christian is going to emerge who will bring the Kingdom of God to the world in a new and dynamic manner. Consequently, once again, Israel’s modern day restoration is irrelevant and therefore enjoys no biblical credentials. Dominion Theology is nothing more than the emergence of an old teaching called Post-Millennialism.
Those holding to these theological positions constantly claim that the New Testament does not support a restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan. In fact for them the New Testament does just the opposite in that it teaches that in the light of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection men everywhere should now repent regardless of ethnicity, race, position or gender. This of course is true but only partly so! Indeed a careful examination of the pages of the New Testament will reveal a different story. A story that will confirm that no part of the Abrahamic Covenant has been abolished or adjusted and that God still remains faithful to all the promises He ever made to the Jewish people in it. This in turn means that Israel’s modern day restoration enjoys significant and amazing support from the New Testament scriptures. Consider the following:
- The Abrahamic Covenant
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises offered up his only
begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall
be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up,
even from the dead, from which he also received him in a
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He
could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying,
“Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply
you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the
promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath
for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God,
determining to show more abundantly the immutability of His
counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things
in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong
consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope
that is set before us.”
It is the Abrahamic Covenant that promises the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession for the purpose of world redemption (Genesis 13:14-15; Genesis 17:7-8; Psalm 105:7-12). The Covenant was conditional upon Abraham’s obedience and was certainly “cut” with him by God in an unconditional manner. That is, God alone undertook to fulfill all the promises and obligations in it (Genesis 15:12-21). Indeed Abraham, having been put to the test, gave full obedience to the command of God that required that he, Abraham, should sacrifice Isaac upon whose existence all the promises of land, of a coming Messiah and of global salvation (blessing) rested (Genesis 22:1-2).
Abraham believed that God would still fulfill these even if Isaac were taken from him leaving him with no heir. Because he demonstrated unswerving faith in the promises of God, God considered Abraham His friend (2 Chronicles 20:7) and swore by Himself and by His word that He would be faithful just as Abraham His friend had been faithful! Theirs was a true friendship based on the fact that God does not lie. Those espousing the errors outlined above believe that God did in fact lie and has broken His friendship with Abraham by dishonoring His promises that He made to him. In fact the truth is just the opposite because God remains faithful to all His promises to the Jewish people because of His friendship with their Fathers, which includes Abraham! Paul picks up on this in Romans 11 when he makes a remarkable statement that goes like this:
“Concerning the Gospel they are enemies for your sake, but
concerning the election (that is, God’s call over their lives)
they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and
the calling of God are irrevocable (that is cannot be changed
or removed in any way).”
In Galatians 3 Paul recognizes that while the Abrahamic Covenant has many parts actually as a Covenant it cannot in any way be annulled. It is one Covenant and no part of it can be changed because God is faithful and a true friend to Abraham.
“Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a
man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds
to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made.
He does not say, “And to seeds” as of many but as of one, “And
to your Seed”, who is Christ.”
For Paul then the Abrahamic Covenant cannot be adjusted in any way (‘no one annuls or adds to it”) but this is exactly what the preachers of these false teachings do. They adjust (add) things that the very nature of the Covenant precludes one from doing. Here Paul is referring to that part of the Abrahamic Covenant that promises that salvation would come to the world through one individual (seed) and not by the giving of the Law given to the many (seeds). In this vain, Luke admits that the many holy men of God who came to Israel, to fulfill their ministries, did so because of the promises that God made to the Jewish people in Abraham. So, John the Baptist came into the world precisely because God remembered His people and His promises to them in Abraham and this too was true of Christ. Speaking of whom he records Mary’s Song as follows:
“He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has
sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remem-
brance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and
to his seed forever.”
And then of John the Baptist he records Zacharias’ Prophetic word as follows:
“That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand
of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore
to our father Abraham: to grant us that we being delivered from
the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness
and righteousness before Him all the days of our lives.”
So, it is clear from these passages that the apostolic writers recognized that in the Abrahamic Covenant God made promises to the people of Israel that embodied land, deliverance, the coming of a herald to the nation and the arrival of a Messiah. In short in sending John and Jesus to the people of Israel God honored the promises that He had made to His friend Abraham.
In Galatians 3 Paul firmly entrenches the unshakable nature of the Abrahamic Covenant because for him:
It promised salvation in Christ and not by means of the Law (Galatians 3:16).
It is everlasting and cannot be annulled (Galatians 3:15).
It is, by virtue of being in Christ, the means to receive the promised Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14)…and,
It is, by virtue of being in Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations (Galatians 3:29).
It is to be noted that in Galatians 3 Paul is seeking to combat those who were seeking to destabilize the Church by insisting that aspects of the Law had to be observed in order to be saved (Galatians 2:11-21). These people were called “Judaizes”. Paul is thus demonstrating that 430 years before the Law was given on Mt. Sinai God promised in the Abrahamic Covenant that salvation would come to the world through a “Seed” (Christ) who by His death on the cross would save us from the curse of sin (Galatians 3:13). The Law, writes Paul, serves as a “tutor to bring us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Paul is definitely not here debunking the other parts of the Abrahamic Covenant that bequeath to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession as some erroneously assert. He was only dealing with the issues surrounding the Law and Grace.
Jesus, recognizing the call of God over the nation of Israel, said:
“Salvation is of the Jews.” John 4:22
This is an amazing statement in that in reality Jesus is the only Savior and yet He recognized that the Jewish people, in their historical journey, undergirded only by the Abrahamic Covenant, are the custodians of redemptive truth. Even Jesus needed their historical journey because by it the Word of God was produced that gave Him context and credentials for His redeeming work. That is, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Paul reinforced the same truth in Romans 9:1-5.
Jesus knew then that the Abrahamic Covenant had made promises to the many (the Jews) and promises to the One who would bring blessing (salvation) to the world, that is, Himself. There is no other way to interpret this statement and to therefore assert that somehow God held true to all His undertakings to Abraham for 2000 years until Jesus came, and then broke them is ludicrous but this is precisely what these three false teachings claim.
It follows then that the modern day restoration of Israel is in fact no coincidence but the outflow of God’s word to “the fathers.” Also, the fact that salvation is of the Jews; means that their existence, revelation, land and Messiah are testimony to the irrevocable call that God placed over their national destiny for the blessing of the world. This call has nothing to do with racial superiority but rather with blessing (salvation) for the nations and yet the nations, and even segments of the Church, resist this call and thereby in fact resist the purpose of God. This was true of old and it is true today. Israel exists only for the blessing of the nations; even the Arabic speaking nations! If only they would recognize it.
It is also worth noting that Jesus foresaw an end-time return of the Jews to Jerusalem (Luke 21:24) and, in response to a question put to Him by His Disciples, affirmed that a day would come, known only to the Father, when the “kingdom would be restored to Israel” (Acts 1:6). This clearly implies a restoration of the Jews to Canaan with Jerusalem as their Capital!
3.Romans 9, 10 and 11
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ
for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the
glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the service
of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and
from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is
over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
It must be, and should be noted, that according to Paul the “Israelites” remain the recipients of “the covenants” and “the promises” and Paul is confirming this to Christians who come from a Gentile background. If this be true then who are we to assert that this is actually not true since he writes this after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? The false theological systems, mentioned at the beginning of this paper, actually claim that by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ the promises made to Israel in the covenants and especially in the Abrahamic Covenant have been altered, changed or abolished. Paul uses the present continuous tense in this passage meaning that all the covenants and promises related to Israel remain intact.
Actually the very fact that Paul dedicates an extensive part of his Roman Epistle to the question of Israel is highly significant in that this alone proves that the Jewish people take and hold a unique place before God in terms of His plan for the salvation of the world. If they were like any other nation, as is asserted by these false teachings, why would he bother for certainly he does not write about Australians or Canadians in this way. What is it about the Jewish people that demands a unique explanation? The answer is the following:
They are, “beloved of God”, even in their unsaved state “for the sake of the Fathers” (Romans 11:28b). That is, God has remembered all the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and will not renege on them. Indeed He will not go back on His “election” of them. Meaning that though unsaved they remain “elected” in the sense that they carry the redemptive purpose of God in their national destiny.
They are, “enemies of the Gospel for your sake” (Romans 11:28a). This is a remarkable statement in that it acknowledges that Jewish unbelief has enabled the Gentile world to hear the Gospel. No other nation on the earth is an enemy of the gospel for our sake and this underlines the fact that even in their unbelief the Jews are a blessing to the world!
They are, not cast away from the promises of God because they “stumbled” over Christ and so they have not been disinvested from anything that God said to them. Paul writes:
“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall (be dis-
inherited of God’s promises to them)? Certainly not! But
through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has
come to the Gentiles.”
In fact their “fall” is “riches for the world” (Romans 11:12). Again, if God has no other destiny for them as a nation then why would Paul write in these terms and indeed he goes on to declare that their recovery, spiritually speaking, will mean for the Gentile world “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15). That is, the literal resurrection of the dead for Gentile Christians. Jesus is not coming again until the full restoration process now unfolding in Israel will be completed. Peter agrees fully with Paul on this as, when preaching to the “men of Israel”, he said:
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be
blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the
presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who
was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until
the times of the restoration of all things, which God has spoken
by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
They are, to be dealt with by kindness and appreciation. Paul warns that if Gentile Christians despise unsaved Jews and deal with them arrogantly and wickedly God is watching and will in the end even remove them from the olive tree of salvation! This is serious business and it is here that vast segments of the Church have failed and have sinned before God and continue to. This reality only pertains to the Jewish people and no other nation and this in turn indicates that as a nation they stand in a unique place before God. We should read the following words of Paul very carefully:
“And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being
a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them
became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do
not boast against the branches. But if you boast, remember that
you do not support the tree, but the root supports you. You will
say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you
stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if god did not
spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.”
The historical record of Christian Anti-Semitism is wicked, awful and overwhelming and much of it has been driven by the three false theological systems mentioned above. These false teachings all have one thing in common; they disinvest the Jewish people of their unique national destiny and consequently assert that there is no biblical significance to their modern day restoration. The New Testament refutes these false claims everywhere. And so, finally:
They are, the recipients of a destiny given to them in Abraham that is “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). The word “irrevocable” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as: “That which is unable to be changed or reversed.” Paul here affirms that when God called forth the Jewish people in Abraham He made promises to them that He would never, in any way, go back on. How strange it is then that so-called Christian theologians have no understanding of what the word “irrevocable” means. Actually they have the same problem with understanding the word “everlasting” found in the pages of Genesis. This theological ineptitude has robbed the Church of truth, displeased God and brought much misery to the Jewish people. If only we had properly read the New Testament after all, as concerning the Jews, “we share in their spiritual things (Romans 15:27)!
It is important to note then that any careful and honest examination of Romans 9,10 and 11 will reveal that unbelieving Israel enjoys a relationship with the God of the Bible that, while not saving, is real and unique and that no other nation on earth enjoys. According to Paul unbelieving Israel is “beloved for the sake of the fathers”, has not been rejected or “cast away”, enjoys a calling that is “irrevocable” and those who mistreat or despise her could be removed from the olive tree of salvation. This is New Testament theology and consequently two questions have to be asked:
- On what biblical grounds does unbelieving Israel enjoy these blessings? The answer is, and can only be, the Abrahamic Covenant…and,
- What other nation currently on the earth enjoys such blessings and protections? The answer is, none!