Table of Contents
It’s evident in scripture that God had a special role for ancient Israel, but did that change? Does modern Israel inherit that original plan?
God’s Covenant with Ancient Israel
God’s special relationship to ancient Israel was frequently stressed in the Scriptures. The Lord said to the Israelites, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2 also 4:7, 20; 2 Samuel 7:23; 1 Chronicles 17:21).
But God’s promises of blessings to old Israel were conditional upon the nation’s faithfulness and obedience to His law. He said, “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth“ (Deuteronomy 28:1).
The Judgement on Israel’s Apostasy
Sadly, Israel as a nation failed to maintain its allegiance to God time and time again (Nehemiah 9: 26-28). Much of the Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel’s rebellion (Judges,1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea). While there were always some faithful in Israel (1 Kings 19:18), the nation often became corrupted (Judges 10:6).
Its rejection to God was revealed by its rejection to the Son of God. And Christ mourned their rejection saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23: 37,38). The nation of Israel refused to live up to her high privileges and to accept its responsibilities.
Israel added to its guilt the sin of crucifying the Savior (Matthew 27:32-56). Therefore, the Lord rejected them and their false worship. At the death of Christ, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). The rent veil at the death of Christ was a visible sign that God no longer accepted the people’s meaningless rituals and ceremonies in the temple. It was Heaven’s signal that the typical service had ended—type had met antitype. In the New Testament, Jesus became the great sacrifice and there was no more need for animal sacrifices. Later on, Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 23: 37,38, was fulfilled when the nation of Israel was finally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Spiritual Israel – The Christian Church
The favored position of ancient Israel was taken from her and given to spiritual Israel which is the Christian church. And Jesus’ words that were addressed to literal Israel were fulfilled. “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matthew 21:43).
In the future, God’s plan to save the world would no longer be dependent on the literal nation of Israel but on spiritual Israel or the Christian church. In the New Testament, both Jews and Gentiles are brought into the family of God through submission to Christ. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26, 29).
Every one regardless of race can be saved through faith in Christ. “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4 also John 1:12, 13; 3:3). God’s grace makes the believers “sons of God” (1 John 3:1), and so “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), and receivers of grace and of all the family privileges (Galatians 4:6, 7).
Because ancient Israel crucified the Messiah, the promises of God’s covenant with His people were transferred to Spiritual Israel – the church which consists of both Jews and gentiles. The apostle Peter addressed the New Testament church with the same titles that were given to ancient Israel saying, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
As God set the ancient Jewish nation apart to bear witness to the principles of His government (Deuteronomy 7:6), so the Lord in the New Testament era called the Christian church to be a “holy nation” to represent Him to the world and spread the good news of the gospel to all people.
In His service,