Today is September 1st, 2017. It is, naturally speaking, the information/digital age. In this age, crimes of theft and fraud have become much more difficult to detect and prevent, committable from a laptop on literally the other side of the world. In fact, a multi-billion dollar “anti-theft industry” has emerged to combat and curb this plague of the age. However, as terrible as this “new age theft” is, there is a not-so-old old method of theft in the land that is far more damaging. It is what we can rightly call “spiritual identity theft”, which goes undetected by millions of Christians around the world, of both the learned and unlearned. Many in the Church have been robbed of their identity in Christ, and therefore, robbed of their inheritance which is inherent within that identity. The thieves that are guilty of this evil crime are the traditions and the doctrines of men.
In particular, the doctrine which has almost singlehandedly stolen away the true identity of the Church is this:
That God still at this present time has two distinct covenant peoples, to whom he will yet fulfill two distinct covenantal plans of redemption – Israel and the Church.
This doctrine and tradition of man is at the heart and core of the modern-day paradigm known as dispensational premillennialism. Stated in a very simplified way, this doctrine identifies the two distinct covenant people and their two distinct covenant plans as such:
The physical and earthly seed of Abraham also known “Israel after the flesh”, God’s holy people, to whom the covenantal land promises made to Abraham must be fulfilled in a physical/literally manner at some point yet in the future in order to consummate God’s redemptive plan with Israel.
The spiritual body of Christ, established temporarily in God’s scheme of redemption only until God resumes his covenantal and redemptive dealings with Israel after the flesh. This interim in which the Church exists, is known as the “times of the Gentiles” or the “Church age”, which according to the millennialist, is not the consummative redemptive age of God for Israel.
From a new testament perspective, this teaching can also be called “delayed eschatology”, since in this vie the eschatological kingdom that was “near” (according to the apostles) in the first century, was “delayed”. The question we should ask ourselves is, is the doctrine that “national Israel” will one day in our future receive the promises made to Abraham through national restoration to the geographical land of Palestine taught by the apostles anywhere in the new testament? Or, does the Spirit inspire the new testament writers to interpret the fulfilment of those promises in a totally different manner, that is, as being fulfilled spiritually in Jesus Christ and the new covenant?
The thesis of this study is to prove definitively that the below definition of Israel is in fact her biblical identity. And, that this identity was and is forever the consummative and redemptive purpose of God for his covenant people – Israel.
Israel: The Body of Christ as the spiritual / heavenly Seed of Abraham, in whom all the covenantal promises and blessings made to Abraham find their ultimate and consummative fulfilment through Christ, which brings to completion and perfection the redemptive purpose of God for Israel and the world.
I suggest that the restoration of this identity to the Church matters much more than many might think. I believe that the true and biblical identity of Israel post AD70 (and therefore today) is one of the most fundamental doctrines of our faith, not just as it relates to biblical eschatology, but also as it relates to our salvation and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Before we jump in, I will say the following as a caveat. Regardless of first impressions by millennialists, this study does not teach what has been called “replacement eschatology”, which teaches that through the cross, the promises made to Abraham (the inheritance of Israel) were taken from Israel after the flesh while unfulfilled, and “transferred” to the Church to be fulfilled in the future under the new covenant.
As we will show, the covenant promises made to Abraham and given to Israel after the flesh were neither given to others prior to their fulfilment (replacement eschatology) or delayed for thousands of years until their future fulfilment (delayed eschatology- dispensational premillennialism), but were received in AD70 at the end of the old covenant age by Israel after the flesh as the transformed spiritual Seed of Abraham in the body of Christ.
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
After the death of Abram’s father Terah in Haran, the Lord once again spoke to Abram and commanded him to leave his homeland, separate from his family, and go into the land which the Lord would show him. Abram was promised that from him would come a great nation.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives
And from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing.
Some time later, the Lord ratified the covenant with Abram and promised that from the seed of his own body would come his heir, and from this heir, his descendants would become as numerous as the stars of heaven. To these descendants, would be given the land that Abram now stood upon.
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.
Approximately twenty four years after the death of Abram’s father Terah, and thirteen years after the birth of Abram’s son Ishmael, Lord appeared to Abram again in his ninety ninth year. The promise of the land inheritance was reiterated, and Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. Not only would Abram be the father of a great nation, but as Abraham, he would become the father of a multitude of nations.
As for Me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning’s, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
Sometime after receiving the promised seed in Isaac and passing the testing of his faith by the Lord through obedience, the covenant was again confirmed to Abraham.
Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.
The plain and straightforward reading of these texts could easily lead one to the conclusion that these promises made to Abraham are yet to find their ultimate fulfilment in the eternal possession of geographical Palestine by the natural seed of Abraham – ethnic Israel. But I suggest that a “plain and straightforward” reading of these texts is in fact the problem. If we do not allow the new testament to spiritually interpret these texts, but instead interpret them through the dim lens of the old covenant, we will be looking for their ultimate fulfilment in the wrong places, at the wrong times, and in the wrong people. In order to grasp the nature of the true and ultimate fulfilment of these promises, we must first understand to whom these promises were given. And to do this, we must understand that Abraham had two sons.
ABRAHAM’S TWO SONS
When Ishmael was thirteen years old and Abram being a ripened ninety-nine, the Lord appeared to him in the land of Canaan. As Yahweh begins to reiterate his promises to his faithful servant, we can just imagine what Abram must have been thinking. In his mind, Ishmael is the seed through whom Yahweh had promised to make a great nation, and it was now time for Ishmael to receive the promise. However, instead of Ishmael being confirmed in the covenant, God informs Abraham that Ishmael is not the promised son, but that he is to father another son. This would have been shocking news to Abraham, since years earlier when he had expected that his servant Eliezer was to be his heir, the Lord had told him that “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:1-4). And now, Ishmael had come forth from “his own body”, so what was the problem?
It was now revealed to Abraham that not only was the promised seed to be of his own body, but that the seed should be conceived in the long barren womb of his wife Sarai. This turn of events proved almost too much for Abraham to take. At the word of this news, Abraham falls to the ground in laughter, and in absolute desperation and impatience of the promise, Abraham begs the Lord, “Oh that Ismael might live before you”. In effect, Abraham says to the Lord, “please Lord, please allow Ishmael to be the promised seed, we have waited so long, and after all, he is my son from my own body”. But in this thing, there would be no compromise from the Lord. It was through Sarah, that the son of the promise would come.
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him… But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”
Not long later, while Abraham was sitting at his tent door in the heat of the day, the Lord appeared to him again. The Lord confirmed that the appointed time for the promised son had arrived, he would be born the following year.
“… I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”… At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
And it came to pass according to the word of the Lord.
Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. So, Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.
Several years later, while Abraham made a feast for Isaac at the time of his weaning, the scripture says that Ishmael “mocked” Isaac. For this, Ishmael was cast out of the “house of Abraham” and was forever excluded from the promised Abrahamic inheritance.
The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Therefore, she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.
In Genesis 15-21, the story of Abraham’s two sons is the foundation for the doctrine of the “two Israel’s” in scripture. It is from this historical narrative that the apostle Paul develops his doctrines of “true Israel” and “apostate Israel” in the new testament. In the book of Galatians, Paul gives us his Spirit inspired midrash (Hebraic interpretation) of Abraham’ two covenant-sons.
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; for more numerous are the children of the desolate than of the one who has a husband.” And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
Paul teaches that Abraham’s two sons and their two mothers represent the two covenants, that is, the old and new covenants.
Hagar (bondwoman) and Ishmael = old covenant
Sarah (free woman) and Isaac = new covenant
The sons of the bondwoman represent the “Ishmael seed”, that is, they represent “Israel after the flesh” (the natural seed / son of Abraham)
The sons of the freewoman represent the “Isaac seed”, that is, they represent “Israel after the Spirit” (the promised spiritual seed / son of Abraham)
Having established the identity of each son, Paul correlates the historical narrative from Genesis to the then-present “situation”. Just as Ismael the natural son of Abraham persecuted Isaac the spiritual son of Abraham, it was ethnic Israel-the seed of Ishmael who was persecuting the body of Christ, the seed of Isaac, the sons of promise.
Thus, having established by his allegory that it was those in Christ who like Isaac, were the true sons of Abraham and therefore sons of the promise, Paul now reveals the impending fate of first century ethnic Israel by the Genesis narrative once again.
But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.”
Paul says that the bondwoman (the old covenant-Hagar) and her son (Ishmael-the natural sons of Abraham) would be “cast out” and would not share in the inheritance of the sons of the free woman (the spiritual sons of the new covenant). Said another way, when the old covenant was fulfilled and taken away, ethnic Israel outside of Christ was to lose all rights to the “true and ultimate” inheritance of the Abrahamic covenant promises.
Just as it was with Israel’s entire old covenant world, Israel themselves as an ethnic nation were but a type and shadow of Israel “after the Spirit” (the Church) under the new covenant. Thus, the true and consummative Abrahamic inheritance was never intended to be received by the ethnic sons of Abraham, but by his spiritual sons, in and through his one spiritual Seed – Christ. In Christ, the church is identified as the seed born from “Abraham’s own body”, and through the new covenant the church is identified as the “sons of the free woman”.
Paul’s teaching and application regarding the two sons of Abraham in Galatians 4 is a devastating biblical refutation to the premillennial paradigm which teaches that ethnic Israel remains the covenant people of Yahweh today. To teach as the dispensationalists do is to reverse the plan and purpose of God by removing the reality in Christ, and reinstituting the shadow under Moses.
ISRAEL’S TRANSFORMATION PROPHESIED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Although the doctrine of Abraham’s two sons as the “two Israel’s under the two covenants” has its foundation in Genesis, it is built upon throughout the old covenant scriptures. In other words, when the apostle Paul “redefines Israel” in the new testament as the body of the faithful in Christ-the spiritual seed of Abraham, he does so by the authority of the old testament scriptures and in fulfilment of them. Paul as a faithful Jew and an inspired old testament interpreter, was simply revealing clearly what was veiled previously under the old covenant age. Remember, Paul and all the other apostles preached nothing but the “hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20)
Let’s look at a few old testament texts that serve as the source of this doctrine.
Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come (literally, “the last days”). Gather together and hear, o sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father…. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
This text teaches that Israel’s (through Judah) rule as a geopolitical people was to one day cease. That day came when Shiloh (Messiah) came in the “last days”, and the “scepter” (the rule of the kingdom) was taken (it departed) from Judah. Jesus taught that the kingdom (scepter) would be taken from Judah and given to “another people” when Jerusalem would be destroyed in AD70 (Mathew 21:33-45). National Israel’s identity as the exclusive covenant people of God was never intended to extend beyond the end of the old covenant age. The “scepter” of Judah has passed from ethnic Israel to the glorified Christ, and those in Him now constitute true / new covenant Israel.
In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit. Like the striking of Him who has struck them, has He struck them? Or like the slaughter of His slain, have they been slain? You contended with them by banishing them, by driving them away. With His fierce wind, He has expelled them on the day of the east wind. Therefore, through this Jacob’s iniquity will be forgiven; and this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones; when Asherim and incense altars will not stand. For the fortified city is isolated, a homestead forlorn and forsaken like the desert; There the calf will graze, and there it will lie down and feed on its branches. When its limbs are dry, they are broken off; women come and make a fire with them, for they are not a people of discernment, therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them. And their Creator will not be gracious to them. In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.
In this amazing text Isaiah says that “Jacob’s iniquity would be forgiven” and her “sin pardoned” when the “fortified city” (Jerusalem) was “isolated” (left desolate) and forsaken, and when Yahweh would no longer have compassion on his people. Yet, “in that day”, Israel would be “threshed and gathered” one by one to the holy mountain at Jerusalem. Isaiah 27 teaches that through Israel’s national judgment would come the restoration and regathering of the remnant. Isaiah continues in the verses that follow….
Woe to the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of its glorious beauty, which is at the head of the fertile valley of those who are overcome with wine! Behold, the Lord has a strong and might agent, as a storm of hail, a tempest of destruction, like a storm of mighty overflowing waters, He has cast it down to the earth with His hand. The proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim is trodden under foot…. In that day the Lord of hosts will become a beautiful crown and a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people…. Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, O scoffers, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, for we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.”…. Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed….. Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, then you become its trampling place.
Notice, in the “day” that Ephraim (Israel) would be “trodden under foot” the Lord of hosts will become a beautiful crown and a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people. Jesus, the cornerstone of the Messianic temple would be laid, and those in Israel (the remnant) who would attach themselves to this cornerstone would become “His remnant people”, but those who would not would be destroyed and overcome by Sheol.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come. Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones and feel pity for her dust. So, the nations will fear the name of the Lord and all the kings of the earth Your glory. For the Lord has built up Zion; He has appeared in His glory. He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer. This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.
The psalmist prophesied of a time when he would have compassion on Zion, when the nations and kings of the earth would fear God, when the Lord would build up (rebuild) Zion and appear in Glory. At that time, “a people” would be “created” that would praise the Lord. The restoration of Zion was when the Lord (in Christ) appeared in glory (John 1:14, Hebrews 1:3) and created a new people to praise him in Spirit and in truth.
“I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” Thus says the Lord, who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters, who brings forth the chariot and the horse, the army and the mighty man (They will lie down together and not rise again; they have been quenched and extinguished like a wick): Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. The beasts of the field will glorify Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people. The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise…..”
Isaiah tells Israel to forget about their past deliverance from Egypt because God would one day deliver them forever by making a “roadway in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” through a new exodus. At that time, the people whom Yahweh formed would declare his praise. In addition to the connection of this text to Psalm 102:18, the fact that this “formed people” would be a “new people” becomes evident as the prophet continues….
(Isaiah 43:22,28, 44:1-3
“….Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; but you have become weary of Me, O Israel…. So, I will pollute the princes of the sanctuary, and I will consign Jacob to the ban and Israel to revilement…. But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; and you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants.
As a nation, Israel had “not called” on Yahweh, so Yahweh “consigned Jacob to the ban (to be taken as in a net) and Israel to revilement (to be a reproach)”. Yet Israel would be restored and blessed when the Spirit of God was “poured out” on them. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out upon Israel as the sign of her Messianic blessing and restoration. Those of Israel who would not receive the Spirit would be “consigned to the ban and revilement”, but those who received “the power from on high” would become the true offspring of Jacob.
And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
The Lord confirmed the Abrahamic covenant with Jacob as he had previously done with Isaac. Then the Lord says something that is most assuredly overlooked by many futurists. He promises that he will not “leave him” until he has done (accomplished) what he had promised (literally, spoken) to him. Yahweh would not “leave” Jacob (Israel) until the Abrahamic covenant has been established, and then he would leave, as the prophet Hosea says….
Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them. But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the Lord their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen.” When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.” Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” It will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.” And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
The Lord said through the prophet Hosea that he would “no longer have compassion of the house of Israel”, that they would never be forgiven, that they would no longer be his people. Yet, when Israel would be gathered together under “one leader”, they would be more in number than the “sand of the sea”. How is it that Israel could be cut off as a people, yet be gathered together as the “sons of the living God”?
Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit. He said, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer…. The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob, “Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds…. In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst. As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, who say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan, and, ‘as the way of Beersheba lives,’ they will fall and not rise again.”
The prophet Amos was shown a vision of a basket of summer fruit. The Lord told Amos that the basket of fruit represented the “harvest” of Israel when they would reap what they had sown. They would no longer be spared, their “end had come”, they would “fall and not rise again”. However, though the kingdom of Israel would be “destroyed from the face of the earth”, a remnant of the house of Jacob would be spared. The prophet continues….
Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? “Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” Declares the Lord. For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’ “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.
Notice that “in the day” that “the sinners of my people” (Israel) die by the sword, the fallen booth (house) of David would be raised up and rebuilt. The destruction of the kingdom of ethnic/national Israel would result in the restoration of the spiritual kingdom/house of David.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord, “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. “Also, the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
In this beautiful passage the prophet Isaiah spoke of a time when even the “eunuch” and the “foreigner” would no longer be separated from “the Lord’s people” but would be given a “name better then sons and daughters” and be allowed access into the house of the Lord. This text speaks eloquently of the new covenant age when those who before could not be “gathered together” with Israel, could now be joined to the Lord with Israel, in Christ. This prophecy not only pointed to a new people of all nations, but to a new order administered in a new temple.
Thus says the Lord, “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,’ So I will act on behalf of my servants in order not to destroy all of them. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of my mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and my servants will dwell there. Sharon will be a pasture land for flocks, and the valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek Me. But you who forsake the Lord, who forget My holy mountain, who set a table for fortune, and who fill cups with mixed wine for destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you will bow down to the slaughter. Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight.” Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Behold, my servants will eat, but you will be hungry. Behold, my servants will drink, but you will be thirsty. Behold, my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. Behold, my servants will shout joyfully with a glad heart, but you will cry out with a heavy heart, and you will wail with a broken spirit. You will leave your name for a curse to my chosen ones, and the Lord God will slay you. But my servants will be called by another name…. For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness.
Because of Israel’s long history of rebellion and provoking the Lord “to His face” (v.3), Yahweh promised to destroy them, but not “all of them”. There is a clear distinction in the text between “those who forsake the Lord” and “my chosen ones”, between “my people who seek me” and “you who forsake the Lord”, between “my servants” and those “destined to the sword”. Those of Israel who would forsake the Lord would be slain, and their name would be left for a curse. But the faithful of Israel (the remnant), would be called by “another name”. According to Isaiah, the time of the “slaying of Israel” and the “naming of the elect” would be the time of the new creation, that is, a new people who inhabit a new Jerusalem.
Although many more texts could be provided, this short list is sufficient. What should be obvious to the reader is that all these portions of the old testament teach repeatedly and consistently that old covenant Israel (after the flesh) was never intended to be remain the covenant people of God forever. What Paul taught concerning the “new covenant identity” of Israel was exactly what the old testament scriptures foretold. After serving its purpose, the old covenant shadow form of Israel was to be judged, cast off, and destroyed due to her covenantal unfaithfulness. However, it was through that “passing away” of the old covenant form of Israel that the righteous remnant who had put their faith in Christ would be redeemed, restored, and transformed into the body of Christ in the new covenant.
To make these truths even clearer for yourself, I encourage the reader to go through each of the texts cited below. The fact that the new testament writers teach that the old testament texts which we have referenced above were being fulfilled in the body of Christ in the first century, is powerful evidence that the “identity change” of Israel was in fact prophesied in the old testament, and was being accomplished in the first century through the new covenant.
Genesis 49:1-11 = Acts 2:16-36
(Shiloh (Jesus) received the scepter, in the last days of the old covenant age)
Isaiah 26:6-13 and 28:1-3,5,14-16,18 = Colossians 1:6, Luke 21:20-24, Mathew 24:30-31, 1 Peter 2:4-9
(Israel was bearing fruit in all the world, the fortified city desolated, the trumpet blown and the gathering of the elect, the cornerstone had been laid)
Psalm 102:13-18 = John 1:14, Hebrews 1:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17
(Jesus appeared as the glory of God, the new creation people had begun)
Isaiah 43:15-44:3 = Mathew 3:3, Luke 3:4-6, Acts 2:16-28
(The way for the new exodus was being prepared, the Spirit was poured out for “times of refreshing” in the wilderness)
Genesis 28:13-15 = Mathew 28:19-20, Luke 21:22, Galatians 4:21-31
(Israel according to the flesh would be forsaken at the end of the old covenant age, when all things written had been fulfilled)
Hosea 1:6-11 = Mathew 23:36-39, Romans 9:25-26
(Apostle Paul says that Hosea 1 was being fulfilled through the gospel and his ministry in the first century)
Amos 8:1-9:12 = Acts 15:13-18
(The apostle James says that Amos 8-9 was being fulfilled through the gospel in the calling of the Gentiles and the diaspora of Israel)
Isaiah 56:3-8 = Acts 8, 10, Ephesians 3:15
(The eunuch and the foreigner are received into the house of the Lord, they are given a name from the Father
Isaiah 65:8-18 = Luke 21:24, John 6:53, John 4:13-14, 1 Corinthians 11:26, Hebrews 13:10, Ephesians 3:15, Galatians 4:21-31
(Israel was destined to fall by the sword in the first century, the Spirit and the Word were their meat and drink, they were called by a new name, they were receiving the new Jerusalem – the new heaven and earth – through the new covenant).
All old testament texts which prophesy a new Israel and the end of the old, find their fulfilment in the body of Christ at the consummation of the old covenant age (1 Corinthians 10:11).
ISRAEL REDEFINED IN MESSIAH
Based on what we have shown so far in this study, one can better understand why Israel’s identity as the covenant people of God begins to be radically redefined in the new testament. The old covenant “shadow form” of Israel (the ethnic nation) was being “replaced”, that is transformed, into its better and perfect spiritual form – the body of Christ. In other words, ethnic Israel’s transformation into the spiritual body of Christ was her prophetic and divinely foreordained destiny from the beginning. Below are some of some new testament texts which prove definitively that in Christ, Israel’s identity was being divinely redefined according to the eternal purpose of God.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son.”
In Romans 9, as in Galatians 4, Paul once again appeals to the Genesis narrative of Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac as the background and source for his “true Israel doctrine”.
But before we get there, notice first that the Israelites of Romans 9 are Paul’s “brethren and kinsmen, according the flesh”. These are Jews from the physical seed of Abraham. However, the phrase “according the flesh” in Romans 9 does not only refer to their natural lineage from Abraham (although that is included), it also refers to their covenant relationship with Yahweh prior to the new covenant, under Torah. (Consider Paul’s use of the phrase “the flesh” in Romans 6-8).
What this means is that the “blessings” of Romans 9:4 were given to Israel as the natural seed of Abraham while they existed in that “type and shadow” form. However, since these blessings were given to them while in that type and shadow form, that is, under the old covenant, it was necessary that they received the fulfilment of these promised blessings while they still existed as God’s covenant people under Torah, and under the old covenant age.
However, according to Jesus and Paul in Galatians 4, ethnic/old covenant Israel ceased to exist as God’s covenant people after AD70 at the time of their “casting out” of the kingdom inheritance. (Also see Mathew 21:33-45). This means that the inheritance / blessings of Romans 9:4 promised to ethnic Israel must have been received before the end of the old covenant age in AD70, when Israel according the flesh would cease to exist as the covenant people of God through the fulfilment and dissolution of their old covenant world.
It is with this understanding that we can better grasp the meaning of the apostle’s words in verse 6. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed…” Why would Paul need to give his Roman readers an assurance that the word of God to ethnic Israel had not failed? The answer is because Paul is writing to the Church in Rome (made up of Jew and Gentile), and throughout his letter he had been teaching that the specific “blessings” of Romans 9:4 that were promised to ethnic Israel were being received by the Church, in Christ. For example, in 4:13-16 Paul has the Romans receiving the inheritance and righteousness, and in 8:2,18,23,29 they were receiving the new covenant glory, and the adoption as sons. It would have been natural for the Christians in Rome to assume that since they were receiving Israel’s “spiritual things”, then the word of God to ethnic Israel had “failed”. However, contrary to appearances, the word of God to ethnic Israel had not failed, and Paul gives the reason why.
“For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.”
It was no longer the blood descendants of Abraham that constituted Israel in the eyes of God. Ethnic Israel were the “children of the flesh”, the “Ishmael seed”, and were soon to be “cast out” (Galatians 4:23,31). It was the “Isaac seed”, the children of promise – those “born according to the Spirit” (Galatians 4:29) who were regarded as the descendants (the seed) of Abraham. In other words, it was those in Christ – the Church – who now formed the body of “true Israel” in the eyes of Yahweh. According to Paul, the “word of God” to ethnic Israel had not failed, because the word of God was in fact being fulfilled to ethnic Israel as the remnant of ethnic Israel were gathering to their Messiah in the body of Christ.
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
In chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul begins to discuss the “fleshly to spiritual” transition of the Jewish rite of circumcision. Circumcision was originally given to Abraham as a “sign of the covenant” between him and Yahweh (Genesis 17:11), and was passed down his physical seed so that the covenant would remain “in their flesh” (Genesis 17:13). The fleshly nature of the seal signified the fleshly nature of the covenant. However, since the Abrahamic covenant was now being fulfilled spiritually in Christ, the seal of that covenant would likewise need to be received in its spiritual form.
Here is Romans 2:28-29 again in the NLT:
For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Paul was teaching that what sealed and established a person as a covenant member of the household of God under the new covenant was no longer the old covenant external ritual of “fleshly circumcision”. It was as Paul puts it, the “circumcision of the heart” that was now the seal of the covenant people of God. This change in the nature of circumcision which Israel was experiencing, was prophesied in their old testament scriptures (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4). These texts teach that this heart circumcision would enable and empower Israel to love Yahweh and their neighbors in a greater way, and would produce an inward “change of nature”. Paul gives us some further insight into this mystery in his letter to the Colossians.
And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
The “circumcision made without hands” is the circumcision of Christ and the circumcision of the heart, which was received through water baptism. The “body of the flesh” refers to the Adamic identity, of who’s “body” they once belonged. The “natural body” which they had been clothed in was removed (circumcised) like an old garment through burial with Christ in baptism. And, being freed from that body of corruption, meant their heart had been changed. For Paul, the true Jew was one who had received the seal of an inward change of heart through water baptism into the body of Christ. The true Jew, was one who loved God through obedience to the gospel of his Son.
For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh
Paul teaches that in Christ, physical circumcision was irrelevant, it meant nothing. This was another way of saying that the seal of the covenant given to the ethnic seed of Abraham no longer carried any covenantal significance. Rather, what mattered covenantally was that sons of Abraham were becoming sons of God through by becoming a new species in Christ – the new creation man. Those who were being re-created in Christ constituted the new “Israel of God”.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham… The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “all the nations will be blessed in you”… So then, those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.…. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ… There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
These few verses in Galatians alone communicate the identity of Abraham’s seed clearly enough to refute any and all dispensational/premillennial claims that the ethnic seed of Abraham still remains the covenant people of God outside of the body of Christ today. It is almost difficult to imagine how Paul through the Spirit could have made this any clearer.
Those who put their faith in Jesus as Messiah had become the children of Abraham. (v.7)
Those who put their faith in Jesus as Messiah were blessed by receiving the same promise made to Abraham. (v.9)
The Abrahamic promises were spoken to Abraham’s physical seeds, but to his singular Seed – Christ. (v.16)
Those in covenant relationship with Christ had become Abraham’s spiritual seeds (descendants) and were the rightful heirs to the Abrahamic promises. (v.29)
This is true-Israel identified, those in Christ – both Jew and Gentile – who constitute the spiritual seed of Abraham. These would inherit/receive the fulfilment of the Abrahamic promises in their true and spiritual nature.
Now, not only do the other new testament writers fully agree with Paul’s doctrine of the “new Israel”, but by quoting old testament promises made to Israel and applying them to the church, they provide a united testimony that:
- The old testament did prophesy that ethnic Israel was to be transformed into the body of Christ, and
- The Church (body of Christ) was in fact taking on the identity of “spiritual / true” Israel in the first century.
Let’s take a look….
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
When Yahweh initiated the Mosaic covenant with Israel, he offered to them a unique and privileged identity based upon their obedience to that covenant. The apostle Peter later applies this identity to the dispersion of Israel in the body of Christ who had been “scattered”. (1 Peter 1:1)
(1 Peter 2:9)
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
The implication should not be missed. For Peter, “obedience to the covenant” (the Mosaic covenant), now means “obedience to the word” (the gospel). It is in Christ that Israel had become obedient to the “voice” and “the (new) covenant” and had therefore become the Lord’s own people of his possession, a royal nation of king-priests. Israel’s covenantal identity was no longer based upon obedience to the old covenant, but upon obedience to the gospel in Christ.
(Exodus 4:22-23, Hosea 11:1)
Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So, I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.” ……. When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.
The Lord himself declared that Israel as a nation was his “firstborn son” whom he had called out of Egypt. The apostle Mathew interprets these texts as being fulfilled in Jesus.
So, Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my Son”
For Mathew, Jesus himself-as the firstborn son-represented the nation of Israel who was being called out (delivered) from Egypt and brought into son-ship through the second exodus. The implication is, since Jesus represented Israel, it was only those in him who would be identified as true Israel.
(Isaiah 49:23, Isaiah 60:14)
Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord, those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame…… The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, and all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; and they will call you the city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
In both these texts, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the future and final restoration of Israel under their Messiah when the tables would be “forever turned”. Israel would be saved, and glorified, and those who had once ruled over her would be humbled and ashamed, they would “bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet”. They would then know that Yahweh was Lord, and that Israel were Yahweh’s people. Israel would forever be vindicated. John the apostle quotes these texts in his revelation of Jesus Christ.
Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie, I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.
Now ask yourself the question. Who “said that they were Jews” but were not? The answer is ethnic Israel (see Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-9, Galatians 3:7,16,28-29 etc.). They claimed to be Jews based on natural/fleshly Abrahamic descent and physical circumcision. But they were not. Being a “flesh descendant” of Abraham was no longer the criteria that identified a true Jew. So why was ethnic Israel designated “the synagogue of Satan”? The answer is because they had become the enemy and the adversary of God, the Church, and the gospel. (See Luke 19:27, Acts 13:10, John 8:44, Romans 11:28, Philippians 3:18)
For over three decades after the cross, it was the nation of Israel who had primarily persecuted, “despised and afflicted” the body of Christ, thus becoming the enemy and adversary of God. In the “reversal of the ages” Jesus interprets the prophecies of Isaiah, an interpretation which we need to honor. According to Jesus, the Church (now true Israel) had become the “city of the Lord”, and ethnic Israel had become the “synagogue of Satan”. Israel after the flesh had now become people outside of the covenant (as Gentiles), and because of their persecution of the new covenant people, he was about to make them “bow down before their feet” and admit that the Church had been loved of Yahweh. In Christ, the Church had become the restored Israel of God.
I will tell of Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
The writer of Hebrews, obviously writing to Hebrew believers in the body of Christ, interprets the “brethren” of Israel as the “brethren” of the Church. Thus, the brethren of King David (ethnic Israel) find their true and ultimate identity as the “spiritual brethren” of Jesus, the Son of David. The Psalmist sums up the true antitypical identity of Israel in these few brief words….
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!
I think even my premillennial brethren would agree that you can’t have a pure heart without a new heart, and you can’t have a new heart outside of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. True Israel are those who have new hearts through the new covenant. God’s ultimate purpose for the ethnic nation of Israel was to bring the Christ in flesh, and all flesh to the Christ. Once accomplished, she would be transformed into her spiritual destiny – the body of Christ.
As we have seen, apostle Paul clearly taught that national/ethnic Israel was being transformed into a new covenant people, the body of Christ. We have also seen that this teaching did not originated in the minds and hearts of the first century writers, but in the old testament scriptures themselves. The inspired apostles are clear that their gospel and their doctrine was the inspired reiteration, elaboration, and interpretation of what had been written in their old testament scriptures all along. Therefore, when the new testament writers “redefine Israel” and the seed of Abraham as the body of the faithful in Christ, they do so by the authority of the old testament scriptures, and in the fulfilment of them.
THE “TYPOLOGICAL INHERITANCE” FOR THE “TYPOLOGICAL SEED”
At this point one might ask the question. “Well if this is true, does this mean that ethnic Israel has never inherited the promises made to Abraham”? This is a valid question, and one that our dispensational friends would answer in the affirmative. As a matter of fact, many premillennialists would argue that since Israel has never inherited the land promises made to Abraham, they must receive “the land” at some point in the future in order for those promises to be fulfilled to Israel, “Abraham’s seed”. In their mind, this argument justifies their rejection of clear new testament teachings regarding the identity of “true Israel” such as Paul’s in Galatians 3-4.
However, in stark contrast to this view, all modern premillennialists must come to face to face with a powerful biblical fact that they as well as their doctrinal predecessors have either missed or ignored. A fact that God “winked at” in times past, but now He commands all premillennialists everywhere to repent.
The old testament teaches emphatically that the Abrahamic promises were fulfilled to old covenant Israel in the times of Joshua through Solomon. In other words, the “natural seed” of Abraham did in fact receive the fulfilment of their promises in the “natural land”.
Below is a short survey of some old testament texts which teach the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant promises to Israel after the flesh.
(1 Kings 4:20-21 NLT)
The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They were very contented, with plenty to eat and drink. Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River in the north to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt in the south. The conquered peoples of those lands sent tribute money to Solomon and continued to serve him throughout his lifetime.
After the dedication of the temple, King Solomon calls the fulfilment of these promises “rest”. The term “rest” is exodus terminology which indicates that their present situation in the days of Solomon was the fulfilment of the Canaan land promises. (Compare the geographical borders in Genesis 15:8 and 22:17 with 1 Kings 4:20-21)
Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.
Joshua told Israel that the dividing of the inheritance among their tribes, and the subjugation of all their enemies was the fulfilment of all the “good promises” to Israel.
So, the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.
When Joshua was old, and many years after Israel had received rest from their enemies, the servant of the Lord reminded Israel of God’s faithfulness to his promises made to their fathers.
Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed.
In the days of the restoration under Nehemiah and Ezra, after Israel had celebrated the restoration of the feast of booths (tabernacles), certain of the Levites prayed to the Lord in front of all Israel and confirmed the faithfulness of Yahweh to the promises made to Abraham.
(Nehemiah 9:7-8, 23-24)
“You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give him the land of the Canaanite, of the Hittite and the Amorite, of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite, to give it to his descendants. And You have fulfilled Your promise, for You are righteous…. You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven, and You brought them into the land which You had told their fathers to enter and possess, so their sons entered and possessed the land….”
Now, should the objection be made that since the promises were made to Abraham and his seed, this means that “Abraham himself” also needs to inherit the land in order for the promises to be fulfilled, I offer the following text.
Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.”
Scripture is clear, Abraham Isaac and Jacob were to inherit the physical land of Canaan “through their descendants”, not personally. The same can be said for Moses, the man of God.
From the above texts, we can confidently say that the Abrahamic land promises were received by old covenant Israel under the old covenant age, and therefore typologically fulfilled. The natural “flesh seed” of Abraham received their Abrahamic inheritance in a “natural/fleshly” manner. Said another way, the typological fulfilment of the promises were received by the typological people of God.
This begs an important question. If the possession of the “land” was the typological inheritance of the true and spiritual inheritance, then would not the “re-possession of the land” be a return to the typological inheritance? How can the future repossession of the type/shadow be the possession of the true/spiritual reality? What the millennialists seem blissfully ignorant of is the fact just demonstrated above, that the land and even the nation of Israel were types and shadows belonging to the old covenant age which pointed to and typified the true and “better things to come” of the new covenant age. Israel after the flesh, that is, ethnic Israel under the old covenant, was always intended to be but a type and a shadow of the body of Christ under the new covenant in Messiah. And as we shall see, their “land inheritance” was always intended to be a “typological inheritance” pointing to the true and spiritual inheritance in Jesus Christ and the new covenant.
CANAAN OR A BETTER COUNTRY
The writer of the book of Hebrews makes it clear that when the old testament faithful looked for the ultimate fulfilment of their promises, they were not anticipating the regathering of ethnic Israel to once again receive “tribal territory” in the physical land of Israel. As already noted, this would be a repeat of and a return to their typological inheritance under Torah. Rather, it was the spiritual and heavenly fulfilment of those promises under the new covenant to which they looked – to the gathering together of the faithful elect of all ages into one body in Christ to receive the better and heavenly country, a city of “rest” which has foundations, who’s builder and maker is God.
Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my wrath,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: And God rested on the seventh day from all his works”; and again, in this passage, “They shall not enter my rest.” Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
The theological source of Hebrews chapters 3-4 is the old testament exodus, specifically the failure of Israel to enter Canaan (their inheritance) as recorded in Numbers 14. At the time when Hebrews was written, new covenant Israel (the Church) was approaching the end of the new covenant (second) exodus in approximately 63-64AD. Addressing these Hebrew Christians, that is, ethnic Israelites in Christ, the writer says that the promise of entering His rest “still remained” for God’s people. In other words, Canaan was not the true place of “rest”, it was typological.
The writer quotes David in Psalm 95 when David said, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” By divine interpretation, the Hebrews writer says that these words of David meant that God had “fixed a certain day”, meaning “another day” beyond the days of both Joshua and David. The writer in clear and emphatic language applies the “certain day” to the days of his first century audience when he says “, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. While some were in danger of “falling short” of the divine rest, there were some that were already entering into it….”for we who have believed enter that rest”.
The question is, was this “rest” to be found in the geographical land of Canaan? Clearly not. For those “who had believed” were not entering a piece of real estate, they were entering the kingdom of God in the new covenant.
Notice also that the phrase “hear his voice” harkens back to verse 1-2 of Hebrews chapter 1. In times past God had spoken many things to Israel through the prophets, but had now “spoken to them by His Son”, Jesus. In Israel’s “last days exodus” they were to hear the voice of the Son, and if they would, they would enter into His “rest”.
I would also point your attention to the word “Today”. The writer of Hebrews says that when David said “Today”, he was prophesying of another “day”. I suggest that this “other day” is the “day of salvation” of Isaiah 49, which in Isaiah is the restoration/salvation of Israel that apostle Paul applied to his day, the first century generation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). Therefore, I suggest that the “rest” of Hebrews 4 to which the Hebrews were being encouraged to enter into in their day, was the consummative salvation of Israel as prophesied in Isaiah 49 as the fulfilment of the Abrahamic promises. Clearly, the Hebrews in the first century were not being gathered into the geographical land of Canaan, they were not returning to that typological rest. Rather, they were being gathered into the spiritual body of Christ, and in Him they were entering the true place of covenantal rest and salvation.
In a powerful refutation of the premillennial paradigm (that Abraham and all the faithful of ethnic Israel will one day inherit the geographical land of Canaan), the eleventh chapter of Hebrews tells us that Abraham himself was not looking to geographical Canaan as the fulfilment of God’s promises made to him, nor were those promises limited to Israel after the flesh. Abraham and the entire first fruit generation of Christians, were looking beyond the shadow in anticipation of the heavenly substance.
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God…
The scripture says that when Abraham was called, he “obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance”. As we have shown above, Abraham received the physical land of Canaan as a typological inheritance through his descendants” (Deuteronomy 34:4). Yet, Abraham set his spiritual eyes on another “land”, a city built by God.
…All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed, if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them…
In Hebrews 11:13, the writer says that the faithful listed in the previous verses “saw the promises and welcomed them from a distance”. Recall the words of Jesus as he spoke in the temple to the Jews of his day…. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:58).
Abraham saw the promises from a distance, and welcomed them.
Abraham saw Jesus’ day, and was glad
Therefore, “Jesus’ day” (the days of his flesh-Hebrews 5:7) was the “day” when the promises which Abraham had seen at a distance would be received.
In 11:16 the Hebrews writer confirms that they were not looking to return to Canaan, for they were looking for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. This heavenly country was the city-temple of God, that has foundations. This city-temple was at that time under construction, being build up by God through the Spirit, and would be completed and glorified at the Parousia. (Compare “city with foundations” with Isaiah 28:16, 1 Corinthians 3:10f, Ephesians 2:19-22, Revelation 21:14f)
…And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
After naming a few more old testament faithful, the writer of Hebrews makes this powerful statement…. That although those under the old covenant had died in faith, none of them, had received the promise. Why? Because God had purposed the faithful of all ages to inherit the promise together, “apart from us they would not be made perfect”. So according to this text, both the old and new covenant faithful would receive “perfection” (the promise) together. That is, they would receive the same promise at the same time.
Now, here is a question for my premillennial friends. Was the church expecting to receive the geographical land of Canaan as their inheritance? Asked another way, was the Church expecting to receive the hope of Israel, that is, Israel’s inheritance? No dispensationalist would answer yes, as they believe that ethnic Israel and the Church were then, are still today awaiting different promises to be received at different times. But that’s not what Hebrews says. Look again…..” God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect”.
Notice, since none of them (the old covenant faithful) received the promise, this means that the typological inheritance of Canaan (which some of them did inherit), was not the focus of the “true promise”. God had provided “something better” to be received by the faithful of all ages together, at the end of the age.
(1 Corinthians 10:6, 10 YLT)
And those things became types of us, for our not passionately desiring evil things, as also these did desire…. And all these things as types did happen to those persons, and they were written for our admonition, to whom the end of the ages did come.
Paul says that the “redemptive events” of the old covenant exodus journey-including the nation of Israel-were “types of us”, that is, they were typological of the body of Christ (true Israel) and the redemptive evens of which they were experiencing. Those who were “baptized into Moses” (10:3) were a type of those who were being baptized into Christ at the consummation of the ages. Yet, they would attain to “perfection” in Christ together in the first century. Many today need to learn from their spiritual father Abraham, who looked beyond the types and shadows of the old covenant world, and saw the substance in Christ. When we like Abraham can see the promises fulfilled in Jesus’ day, then like Abraham, we too will be glad.
IDENTITY RESTORED – INHERITANCE REALIZED
As a brief recap, here is what we have seen so far:
- Abraham had two sons, a son “of the flesh” and a son “of the Spirit”. These two sons represented two covenant peoples, under two different covenants, belonging to two different ages.
- The Abrahamic promises (covenant) had from their origin both a “natural” and a “spiritual fulfilment”. The natural fulfilment pointed to and foreshadowed the ultimate spiritual fulfilment. As the “natural” fulfilment of those promises, the ethnic seed of Abraham (the sons of the flesh) did inherite the physical-geographical land of Canaan.
- The inspired new testament writers clearly redefine the seed of Abraham (Israel) as the new covenant body of Christ (the sons of the Spirit), who in the first century were inheriting the spiritual fulfilment of the Abrahamic promises through covenantal restoration in Jesus Christ.
- The “redefining of Israel” was prophesied by the old testament prophets, confirmed by Jesus, and recorded by the new testament writers to be unfolding in their first century generation.
Not only are the dispensationalists misguided in their identity of biblical Israel post AD70 and their interpretation of the nature of the Abrahamic promises under the new covenant age, they are doubly wrong to insist that the Abrahamic inheritance still remains unfulfilled and unreceived in the body of Christ –true Israel- today.
Israel was expecting the arrival of the long anticipated new covenant kingdom age as the fulfilment of the Abrahamic promises. In the below texts, we see three Greek words translated as “world” used to describe the Abrahamic inheritance.
For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
“world” (kosmos-the orderly arrangement of, the adorning of something)
For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.
“world” (oikoumene-the inhabited earth / land) – Hebrews 2:5
And have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come. (KJV)
“age” (aion-an epoch, a period of time characterized by certain elements)
Coming into existence in the first century was the new covenant age, the Messianic epoch. Within this kingdom-age, there was an “orderly arrangement” and an “inhabited land” which belonged to it. In other words, the new covenant age would usher in and establish a new “inhabited land” and a new “order / arrangement” which would govern and rule it. We are speaking of the kingdom of God.
Abraham and all the faithful were promised to inherit the kingdom of God, of which they would inhabit as their “heavenly country” (oikoumene), rule and reign through a new order/administration (kosmos). Jesus himself told his disciples the time when this kingdom inheritance would be received by Abraham, his seed, and all the prophets.
Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from me all you evildoers.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.
Ask yourself these questions. What generation did the people of Israel eat and drink “in Jesus’ presence”? And in which generation did Jesus “teach in their streets”? This could only be Jesus’ first century contemporary generation. Notice, the very people who had Jesus teach in their streets and who ate and drank in his presence (first century Israel) would see “themselves thrown out of the kingdom” and Abraham and the faithful receive it. Jesus taught the same thing in the gospel of Mathew.
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. “When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. “Again, he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone, this came about from the Lord and it is marvelous in our eyes”. Therefore, I say to you the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.
This parable is Jesus’ midrash of Isaiah 5. In Isaiah, Israel as the vineyard of the Lord would be judged, destroyed and would descend to Sheol due to her injustices resulting in the oppression and bloodshed of the people. Jesus applies this prophecy to old covenant Israel of his day, and they knew it, for they “understood that he was speaking of them”. They had oppressed the people and would soon persecute and kill both him and his disciples. Israel would be judged and destroyed for their bloodshed and unfruitfulness when the kingdom of God was taken from them and given to another people. (In this parable Jesus is also alluding to Daniel 7, the time when the “saints took possession of the kingdom”).
The total destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 signified when the old covenant kingdom of God was taken from ethnic Israel as judgment against them for shedding the blood of the righteous. It was at that time that the new covenant kingdom of God was given to a new people – the spiritual seed of Abraham – who would produce the fruit of righteousness.
Approximately 34 years after Jesus spoke this parable in Mathew 21, the writer of the book of Hebrews pens these amazing words as the imminent expectation of the fulfilment of Jesus’ words.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe.
And, we have the sure and unfailing word of Jesus that the kingdom which they were then receiving, would be fully inherited within his own generation.
So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.
Since AD70 and the destruction-judgment of Jerusalem, Israel “after the flesh” no longer exists as a covenant people of God. As we have seen, the slave-woman (the Old Covenant-Hagar) and her slave-son (the flesh seed-ethnic Israel) were cast out when spiritual Israel (Abraham’s spiritual seed-the body of Christ) received her new covenant kingdom (Galatians 4, Mathew 21, Hebrews 12). Therefore, the promises that God made to the fathers and which Jesus came to confirm (Rom.15:18), were being fulfilled in the first century while the remnant of Israel after the flesh still existed covenantally under Torah. All of Israel’s promises and prophecies were fulfilled and realized in the events surrounding Jerusalem’s destruction and the coming of the Lord in AD70.
I firmly believe that if the Church truly understood that Israel after the flesh was but a type and shadow of themselves-the body of Christ, we would experience a radical change in our understanding of the kingdom of God and how it is meant to impact our world. And, if the Church would grasp the fact that the eschatological promises made to Israel after the flesh had to be fulfilled to Israel while under the old covenant, yet be received under the new covenant, we would better grasp the nature of the fulfilment of all prophecy in Christ.
I do understand that for my millennial brethren, what has been said is not an easy pill to swallow. For, to admit that ethnic Israel was but a “type and shadow”, who would find ultimate fulfilment and restoration through their transformation into the body of Christ, is to kill the root of the dispensational tree, thus nullifying the entire premillennial paradigm. But, for the brethren who love the word and desire His truth over man’s tradition, this proverbial pill of truth will be most gladly swallowed.
Let us lay aside the dispensational doctrines of men, and regain our identity as the Israel of God in Christ, and begin to better appreciate the inheritance and salvation we have received as the spiritual and heavenly seed of Abraham.