Who is the Israel of God in the New Covenant?

by Charles S. Meek

Jesus fulfilled all of the promises to Old Covenant Israel (Luke 1:54-55, 69-75; 2 Corinthians 1:20). The Israel of God is no longer fleshly, natural Israel, but rather all believers in Jesus―along with a remnant of Godly believers of old (Romans 11). “Not all Israel is Israel” (Romans 9:5-8). The church extends beyond natural Israel to include Gentiles (Luke 2:32; Acts 9:15; 11:1, 18; Romans 11:11-32; Galatians 3:6-9, 25-29). Here is a sampling of passages about this:

Galatians 6:14-16. In the context of the rest of Galatians, Paul refers to the “ISRAEL OF GOD” as those who walk according to the Spirit—by faith in Jesus Christ (and specifically not by works of the Jewish Old Covenant Law, including circumcision).

Galatians 4:21-31. Physical Jerusalem, that is, the old covenant, is cast out making way for the New Spiritual Jerusalem (“the Jerusalem above”)—the new children of the promise.

Hebrews 12:22-24. Christians of the first century had already arrived at the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem—through Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant.

Matthew 3:7-11. John the Baptist tells the Pharisees and Sadducees not to count on their physical descent. Indeed, they are about to be cut down in the wrath about to come (AD 70).

Matthew 21:18-19. Jesus curses the fig tree, an Old Testament symbol for Old Covenant Israel (Jeremiah 24; Hosea 9:10; Luke 13:6-9), and the fig tree withered away forever.

Matthew 21:33-45. Parable of the Tenants. Jesus tells the Jews that the kingdom is being taken away from them and given to another group, obviously the church.

Matthew 22:1-4. The Parable of the Wedding Feast. It was obviously the Jews who were invited to the wedding, but their refusal to accept Christ as Messiah would lead to their demise—“destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 23, the next chapter, details why the Jews were the object of Jesus’ wrath. Not only were they exceedingly sinful, but also refused to accept Him as Savior.)

John 1:12-13. The children of God are believers, and not by blood.

John 8:31-47. Jesus explains to the Jews of his day that they are not truly offspring of Abraham, but rather are offspring of the devil.

Romans 2:28-29. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not the letter.”

Romans 9:5-8. Paul taught that not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel (“FOR THEY ARE NOT ALL ISRAEL WHO ARE ISRAEL”), and not all are children of Abraham. It is not the children of the flesh (i.e. their ethnicity) who are children of God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:16.)

Romans 11:11-32. Branches (of Israel) were broken off and Gentiles grafted in by faith. This is not to be seen as strictly “replacement theology,” but rather “inclusion theology.” Whoever accepted Christ, both Gentiles and a remnant of Jews are saved (Romans 11:5).

Galatians 3:6-9, 25-29. Heirs to the promise, i.e. the true sons of Abraham, comes from faith in Christ, not physical descent.

Ephesians 2:11-3:13. Gentiles are no longer aliens but are fellow citizens in a new dwelling place, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (ref. Revelation 21:14).

Ephesians 2:15-16. Jews and Gentiles became “one new man in place of two,” thus “one body.”

Philippians 3:3. The church is the real “circumcision.” Circumcision is the special sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and Israel (Genesis 17:10, 13), so the Christian church has become God’s covenantal people.

Colossians 2:6-3:17. Paul explains in this passage that physical circumcision had been replaced by spiritual circumcision, thus spiritual Israel—believers being made spiritually alive IN CHRIST. (See also Philippians 3:3).

Hebrews 1:1; 2:1. In these two passages, James makes it clear that the twelve tribes of Israel had become believers in Jesus.

Hebrews 8:5-13. The Old Covenant was being replaced by a New Covenant as predicted in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:31-34; etc.)

James 1:1; 2:1. The twelve tribes of Israel had become believers in Christ.

1 Peter 2:4-10. The new chosen race is the Christian church (building motif).

Revelation 2:9; 3:9. There are those who say they are Jews, but are really are a “synagogue of Satan.”

Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 9-27. The New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ, the church—which is built on the foundation of the apostles (ref. Ephesians 2:20).

Summary. This is about the changing of the covenants. Israel’s covenant with God was contingent on obedience (Deuteronomy 28-32)! Throughout the Bible, Israel’s relationship with God is portrayed as a marriage (Isaiah 54:5; 62:4; Jeremiah 2:2; 3:14, 20; 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16:8, 32, 38; Hosea 2:2, 7, 16; Malachi 2:14). Whenever Israel was unfaithful, she is characterized as a harlot or adulterer (Deuteronomy 31:16-18; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6-9; Ezekiel 6:8-9; 16:15, 26, 28; Hosea 1:2; 6:10; 9:1). The central theme of Revelation is a story of two women—the harlot Babylon who is judged/divorced (Revelation 17:1, 5, 15; 18:9, 21; 19:2) and God’s new bride the New Jerusalem (Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9). The faithless harlot is apostate Old Covenant Israel. The new bride is the Christian church, the wife of the Lamb, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; 19:7; 21:2, 9-27). Compare to the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14, as well as such passages as John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27.

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