Q.

I’m enclosing a page I read from a Southern Baptist devotional that makes this statement: “Christians today are the new Israel (Rom. 9:6–8).” Please comment.

A.
The “amillennial” and “covenant theology” view is that when Israel rejected her Messiah, Christ, the first time He came to earth, she cut herself off forever from her former status and God-given promises and that the church now holds them, making Christians today Israel.

We premillennial dispensationalists disagree with this position. Though we recognize that God temporarily set aside Israel during this present dispensation of the church (known as the Church Age) to focus on and fulfill His redeeming work primarily among Gentiles, we also recognize the unconditional nature of the promises God gave to Israel regarding her land and the coming rule of Messiah. These promises haven’t been fulfilled, so they are yet to be fulfilled. God keeps his word.

Always remember to take the Bible literally. The rule is, “When the plain Scripture makes sense, then seek no other sense.” When we spiritualize prophecies and so forth in the Bible, like the above-named groups often do, we are open to all sorts of differing interpretations, sometimes very unusual and bizarre, such as those of certain individuals today who speak on the radio and publish their speculations. We must accept Israel as literal Israel when we study the Bible.

The quotation you gave included a Scripture passage, so we need to see if the passage teaches that “Christians today are the new Israel.” I find that it doesn’t teach that idea at all.

As far as His program for the nation is concerned, God has set Israel aside during the Church Age. Israel’s hardened heart is temporary. When God has gathered His Gentile elect, the time of restoration of “all Israel” will proceed (Romans 11:25–27). This passage alone shows that the church does not replace Israel in God’s covenant program. Read it carefully.

These truths do not mean that individual Jews won’t be saved even during the Church Age. Chapters 9—11 of Romans are showing us that should a Jew ask if God has broken His promises to His chosen people because the gospel is given to Gentiles, that Jew can be a part of the true, believing company. Romans 9:6 shows us that God has always elected people not on lineage but upon believing: “They are not all Israel who are [descended from] Israel.” Paul was referring to spiritual reality here. Being an Israelite by birth did not assure one the status of a believing (having faith) Israelite. Paul was contrasting the promises that belong to Jewish believers with the promises that belong to Israel according to the flesh.

Verse 7 talks about the seed of Abraham. Amillennialists and people in the covenant theology camp insist that this term must not refer to Jews. They talk as though God had never made any promises to the Jews as a race or as though these promises have already been fulfilled.

We must understand that believers (the church, the Body of Christ) may be related to the covenant promises without being the covenant people through whom the national promises will be fulfilled.

As premillennial believers, we concur that there is a spiritual seed for Abraham, which, of course, includes Gentiles. But we deny that this seed fulfills the promises—the restoration of their land and so forth, which is eternal and specific as to boundaries (Genesis 15:7—21)—that God made to the “natural seed” of Abraham, the Jews.

Amillennialists deny these features. But this denial, we believe, contradicts the Old Testament prophets, who emphasized over and over again the future aspects of this unconditional covenant and all its blessings. They would not have done so had the promises already been fulfilled, for example, in the time of the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. In other words, Gentile believers are a seed, but they are not the seed (Israel) that received the national promises.

Passages such as Romans 10:1, where it is obvious that Israel is addressed as a nation even after the church had come into being, must be accepted: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Or note 1 Corinthians 10:32: “Give no offense, either to the Jews [nation of Israel] or to the Greeks [unsaved Gentiles] or to the church of God [all true believers in Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles].” Here Paul distinguished three groups. It should be obvious that Israel and the church of God are two different entities—the church of God was/is not Israel, and vice versa.

Another passage is Galatians 6:15 and 16, where Paul specifically mentioned believing Jews (“Israel of God”), giving them a special recognition. His love for true Israel (Jewish believers) was great, and his love and concern for unbelieving Jews was also great. If “Israel” here meant the entire church, it would not be necessary to make this mention. Again, the name “Israel” in the New Testament refers to the Jews every single time, not to the church.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (October 2002).
© 2002 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.