I continue on from my thoughts in the last post – Interpreting the Prophetic Words of the Old Testament. There is also much debate amongst people today about whether the promises of prophecy in the Old Testament are for Jews, Christians, or even both. Thus, I wanted to take this blog opportunity to try and establish what I believe is a healthy and Biblical answer to the question.
The first and foremost principle we must establish is that God’s promises and blessings are always spoken to His people. In the Old Testament God formed a people, which were recognized primarily by the name of Abraham’s grandson – Israel. The Hebrew people were to follow in the footsteps of their father Abraham who ‘believed the LORD, and he [the LORD] counted it to him as righteousness.’ (Genesis 15:6). The descendants of Abraham were to be a people of faith, believing their God, which would lead them to follow His ways.
We know the story, though, that most of Israel had forsaken their LORD to follow after false idols, thus breaking the covenant with God. Consequently, after many centuries of patient waiting, both kingdoms were taken into exile for their continued unfaithfulness and breaking of the covenant. Though their was a return many years later to the land of Judah, things were never quite the same as the Jews had hoped.
When the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, arrived on the scene, He came to initiate a new covenant. It was not altogether new, for it was built upon the covenant promises previously made to the patriarchs of the old covenant. But it was new in that it was fresh revelation, and not only that, but the final revelation concerning God’s redemptive plan for all peoples of all nations.
Therefore, when Christ arrived on the scene to establish such a new covenant, He did not do away with one people of God while setting another people in their place (rejecting Jews and accepting Gentiles). Rather, as intended, God’s people still continued in the same line as their father, Abraham. Those who were truly Abraham’s seed continued in faith, trusting in God.
Paul lets us know in Romans 9:6:
For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.
‘Israel’ is the name for the believing people of God, and so, God continues to have an Israel today – a people who have faith as their father, Abraham did. But the new covenant makes it clear that this faith is substantiated through faith in the Messiah that has come, that is Jesus Christ.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction [between Jew and Gentile]: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)
Paul does let us know in Romans 11:25-32 that God will continue to move amongst and save Jewish people. But we must remember that whether one is physically born Jew or Gentile, Abraham is the ‘father of all who believe’ (Romans 4:11). And it is this people of faith in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, that form the Israel of God:
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:15-16)
The Israel of God is that people who are not defined by a physical circumcision, but rather by a circumcision of heart (Romans 2:28-29).
Jesus even proclaimed to the Jewish leaders,
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. (Matthew 21:43)
The kingdom was now being handed over to another people, not so much the Gentiles, but a people producing the fruit of the kingdom rule of God – those Jew and Gentile who remained faithful to the covenant of God by submitting, in faith, to the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Though people might claim that I, and others alike, are embracing what is called replacement theology, I do not believe this is true. I have not stated that the Church replaces Israel. Rather I have tried to Biblically show that the Church, the Israel of God, is the continuation and fulfillment of God’s covenant people through faith in Christ. And this united people are gloriously made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Thus, I do not see this as replacement theology but rather as fulfillment theology, for it was Christ, through the new covenant, that came to completely fulfill all that had been spoken beforehand.
Thus, as the prophetic promises have always been spoken to God’s people, then it is His people that will receive those promises. And that people consist of both Jew and Gentile who walk in the footsteps of their father, those footsteps being faith in God through the Messiah, Jesus. Praise be to the One who is faithful to fulfill His promises to His people!
My next article will look at God’s desire to build a temple, but in a very unexpected way as expressed in the new covenant.