Role of National Israel in the Plan of God
from eParousia #4, May, 2003
the last issue of eParousia, we looked at the various views
of the Millennium - Amillennialism, Postmillennialism and Premillennialism.
One's position on the millennium often stems from one's ecclesiology
- what a person believes is true about the church. In this issue
I thought it would be good to examine the underlying theological
viewpoints which undergird these various views. Namely, who is Israel?
What is the Church? What is God's plan for Israel? Is there a future
for national Israel? For answers to these questions, we'll need
to examine the Scriptures.
are two main views concerning the role of the nation of Israel in
God's plan. One view holds that Israel was God's chosen people,
but has now been set aside because of their disobedience and rejection
of Christ. Israel was judged in the destruction of Jerusalem and
the temple in 70 AD, and the Church has replaced Israel as the new
people of God. The Church inherits the blessings promised to Israel
in the Old Testament, and these blessings are not to be understood
literally, but spiritually. This view has been called Replacement
other position believes that, though Israel was judged and set aside
by God for their disobedience and rejection of the Messiah, this
judgment is not permanent. The Church has a role to play in the
plan of God, but it is not as a replacement for Israel. Rather,
Israel does have a future in the plan of God, and the promises given
to Israel will be fulfilled in Israel. This view is part of what
has been called Dispensationalism.
and Postmillennialism are based on replacement theology. Since Israel
no longer has a role in God's plan, there is no need for a future
1000-year kingdom where Israel will be the chief nation on earth.
Premillennialism, however, believes that God's promises to Israel,
as of yet unfulfilled, will be fulfilled to Israel in a future time
called the Millennium. The question for us is, "What does the
RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL
of all, we must recognize that God has a special place in His heart
for Israel and Jerusalem. In Deuteronomy 7:6 we read, "For
you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has
chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the
peoples who are on the face of the earth." God calls Jerusalem
the "apple of His eye" in Zechariah 2:8. For a reason
known only to God, He chose Israel to be His people, to reflect
His glory, and to receive His blessing, and He chose Jerusalem as
His dwelling place. It was God's eternal plan that Israel would
be the conduit for His blessing and grace to spread to the entire
relationship with Israel is based on covenants. The Old Testament
speaks of several covenants that God made with His people, Israel.
The foundation of all of these covenants is the one made with Abraham,
called the Abrahamic Covenant. Genesis 12 gives us the first encounter
with the covenant:
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; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one
who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed." (Gen. 12:1-3)
this a temporary covenant that one day would be set aside? No. The
Scriptures clearly state that this covenant (promise) from God is
"everlasting" (Gen. 17:7-8). The Abrahamic Covenant involves
three elements: A land, a nation, and a blessing. These three aspects
of this covenant are enlarged in subsequent covenants, called the
Palestinian (or land) covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the New
Covenant. These covenants are also stated to be eternal covenants.
and over God promised to give the Promised Land to Israel "forever"
(Gen. 13:15; Ex. 32:13; Is. 60:21; Ezek. 37:25). God promised David
that one of his descendants would sit on his throne. God says that
this throne will be established "forever" (2 Sam. 7:12-16;
1 Chron. 17:11-14; Ps. 89:35-37; Is. 9:6-7; Luke 1:32-33). And the
New Covenant is called an "everlasting covenant" (Heb.
13:20). God has made it very clear what He intends to do.
of God's promises to Israel, which began with the Abrahamic Covenant,
will finally be fulfilled in a future kingdom. As God states through
the prophet Ezekiel:
My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have
one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My
statutes, and observe them. And they shall live on the land that
I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they
will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons' sons, forever;
and David My servant shall be their prince forever. And I will
make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting
covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and
will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place
also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will
be My people. And the nations will know that I am the LORD who
sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever"
must note that all of these covenants were with the nation of Israel.
Even the New Covenant is specifically stated to be "with the
house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Jer. 31:31).
God never made a covenant with the Church. Rather, the church now
shares in the New Covenant. The New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus
in the upper room with His disciples, is the same New Covenant spoken
of in the book of Jeremiah, and the only covenant mentioned by the
when speaking of the Church's relationship to Israel, never says
that the Church has usurped Israel's place, or replaced Israel as
the covenant people of God. Rather, Paul speaks of us as being "grafted
in" (Rom. 11:17), "brought near" (Eph. 2:13), "descendants
of Abraham" by faith (Rom. 4:16), "heirs" of Abraham's
promise (Gal. 3:29), and as "sharing" in Israel's blessings
(Rom. 15:27). Because of God's grace and his plan to extend His
blessing to all peoples, we have been included with the Jews into
the New Covenant.
GOD REJECTED HIS PEOPLE?
you may ask, "Didn't God reject the Jews because of their disobedience?"
I'm glad you asked. Some had asked this same question of the apostle
Paul, and his answer was unequivocal: "May it never be!"
(Rom. 11:1). Indeed, the 11th chapter of Romans is Paul's treatise
on the role and future of Israel in God's plan of redemption. Rather
than teaching replacement theology, the apostle Paul reasserts what
was the clear teaching of the Old Testament - God is not through
with Israel, and He has a grand plan for their future.
summarize Romans 11, Paul tells us that God has not finally rejected
His people, Israel. Rather, because of their disobedience, God has
given them a "spirit of stupor", a "partial hardening".
They have been broken off from the root, but will be grafted in
again. During this time of Israel's blindness, the gospel has gone
to the Gentiles in order to make the Jews jealous. We Gentiles,
the wild olive tree, have been grafted into the root of the natural
olive tree (Israel). Once the "fullness of the Gentiles"
has come in (to salvation), then "all Israel will be saved."
Regarding Israel, Paul states, "For the gifts and calling of
God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29). That is, God's covenant
with Israel in the Old Testament has not been revoked. Israel will
inherit the blessings promised to them and one day in the future
they will be grafted back in and "all Israel will be saved."
is merely repeating what God had already said in the Old Testament.
He has promised to never cast off Israel:
says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed
order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs
up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:
"If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares
the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease
From being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD,
"If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations
of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all
the offspring of Israel For all that they have done," declares
the LORD. (Jer. 31:35-37)
just looked out my window here in Central Florida and saw the sun.
I guess God still has plans for Israel.
the Old Testament God promised that one day salvation would come
to Israel (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-28, 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5;
Joel 3:16-21; Zech. 10:6-12, 12:10). Though they had rebelled and
sinned against God, He would one day have compassion on them, and
bring them to salvation. Paul knew his Bible, and this is what he
is speaking of in Romans 11.
RESTORED TO ISRAEL
of God's promises in the Old Testament was the restoration of the
Kingdom to Israel. He had allowed them to be conquered again and
again because of their disobedience. But, consonant with their future
national salvation would come a restoration of their kingdom as
well. Again, there are a multitude of verses that promise this restored
everlasting Kingdom (Jer. 23:5-6; Ezek. 37:24-28; Dan. 2:44; Amos
9:11-15; Obad. 17-21; Zech. 14:9-17).
New Testament also reiterates the restoration of Israel's kingdom.
When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary, and told her that she was to
have a child by the Spirit of God coming upon her, he said of this
child: " He will be great, and will be called the Son of the
Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father
David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His
kingdom will have no end." (Luke 1:32-33). What would these
words have conveyed to Mary? Undoubtedly that her son would rule
the nation of Israel, as her ancestor David did.
in His ministry Jesus promises his twelve disciples that, "…in
the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne,
you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes
of Israel" (Mt. 19:28). What could this mean except a restoration
of the Kingdom to Israel?
His Olivet Discourse recorded in Luke 21, Jesus spoke of the coming
destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the dispersion of the Jews.
He said, "… and they will fall by the edge of the sword,
and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will
be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles
be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). This is a prophecy of the destruction
by Rome of literal Jerusalem and its subsequent domination by Gentile
powers. However, a time limit is placed on this domination by the
word "until". Jesus says that one day the domination will
end. What can this refer to but the restoration of Jerusalem to
finally, after the resurrection of Christ, His disciples ask him
a pressing question: "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring
the kingdom to Israel?" It would have been simple for Him to
say, "No. You don't understand. My kingdom is spiritual, not
physical." But how did He answer His disciples? He said to
them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the
Father has fixed by His own authority…" (Acts 1:6-7).
Had they misunderstood? Hardly. Jesus in no way diminishes their
hopes of a restored kingdom; rather He says that the restoration
of the kingdom to Israel will come in God's own timing.
theology does a disservice to the Church, Israel and the Word of
God. The substitution of the Church for Israel runs counter to the
expectations of the prophets, the expectations of Jesus' disciples
and the clear teaching of both the Old and New Testaments. If God
will not fulfill His promises to Israel, what guarantee do we have
that He will fulfill His promises to the Church? Has God rejected
Israel? May it never be!
article was originally published through eParousia,
Sola Scriptura's monthly end-times e-newsletter.