Today around the globe, millions interested in Bible prophecy have their eyes fixed on Jerusalem. Best-selling author Dave Hunt speaks of his views on the back cover of his popular book, A Cup of Trembling. He writes: “Fast-moving events in the Middle East point almost daily toward the grand finale—the time of greatest suffering for the Jewish people worldwide, which will climax in the terrifying battle of Armageddon and the glorious return of Messiah to rescue Israel and reign over the world from David’s reestablished throne in Jerusalem.”
Christians are now speculating about the modern state of Israel, a rebuilt Jewish temple, and a Middle East Armageddon. Sincere Christians all over the earth are applying these prophecies to literal places in the Middle East and to the modern nation of Jews.
Is this correct? Let’s allow the Bible to answer:
The Lord told the ancient Israelites, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). In the New Testament, Peter applies these exact words to the church: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9).
Who is “Israel” in the New Testament?
Paul, in Galatians 3, points to Jesus as being “the seed,” he then tells his Gentile (a non- Jew) converts, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). Thus in the New Testament, the name Israel not only applies to Jesus Christ, but also to those who are born in Christ—His Church! In other words, all true Christians are now God’s spiritual Israel.
According to the New Testament, there are now two Israels. One group is composed of literal Israelites “according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3, 4). The other is “spiritual Israel,” composed of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ.
Paul writes, “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). That is, not all are part of God’s spiritual Israel who are of the literal nation of Israel. Paul continues: “That is, They which are the children of the flesh [physical descendants of Abraham], these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (v. 8). The children of the flesh are only natural descendants of Abraham, but the children of the promise are counted as the true seed. Today, any person—Jew or Gentile—can become part of this spiritual nation of Israel through faith in Jesus Christ.
And who are the “Jews” in the New Testament?
Just as there are two Israels, there are also two kinds of Jews. First, there are the Jews who are only natural, physical descendants of Abraham. Second, there are the Jews in Spirit who believe in Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest on the law, and makest thy boast of God … For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision [Gentiles] keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? … For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:17, 25, 26, 28, 29).
So, someone who is “called a Jew” because he is a physical descendant of Abraham, and yet who lives as a lawbreaker, “is not a Jew”—at least, not in God’s eyes. His “circumcision is made uncircumcision.” His circumcision is canceled. Thus to God, he is a Gentile. And a believing Gentile, who through faith keeps “the righteousness of the law,” his uncircumcision is counted for circumcision. Thus to God, he is a Jew.
Jesus told the literal Jews, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet [worthy] for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:8, 9).
Later, Jesus repeated the same message to the religious leaders. “They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham … Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:39, 44).
Paul also spoke of the same principle, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Thus, according to Paul, a real Jew in the sight of God is anybody—Jew or Gentile—who has personal faith in Jesus Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, … for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28, 29).
And, Peter echoed the same thing to the Gentile converts, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34, 35).
Today, it’s clear that Bible promises are not for the literal nation of Israel or the literal Jews but rather for the body of Jesus and the church (John 2:19, 20).