Ask Donnell: Has The Church Replaced Israel In God's Plan?

Ask Donnell: Has The Church Replaced Israel In God's Plan?

We received the following question;

"Some people believe that The Church is spiritual Israel. Has The Church replaced Israel in God's plan? If so, what's God's plan for The Nation of Israel?"

Is The Church spiritual Israel? That is a fascinating question. I've heard the concept before and definitely understand why anyone would believe that to be the case. This idea has been referred to as "Replacement Theology" or some version of it by its critics. It purports that The Church replaced Israel in God's plans, prophecies, etc. especially when it comes to Eschatology or End Time Prophecies. The New Covenant with The Church replaced The Old Covenant with Israel. Circumcision of the heart replaced physical circumcision, etc., etc. Therefore, after The Book of Acts, anywhere we see the future of Israel in The Bible we can put The Church in there. Here's two scriptures that could cause some to start thinking along those lines.

Romans 2:25-29, 3:1-2, 9-10, 29-31(NLT) - The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey God's law. But if you don't obey God's law, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. And if the Gentiles obey God's law, won't God declare them to be his own people? In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God's law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God's law but don't obey it. For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people....3:1 - Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God... 9 Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10 As the Scriptures say, "No one is righteous— "No one is righteous— not even one.... 29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn't he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.

Galatians 3:26-29(NLT) - For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you.

So what do you see in those two scriptures? Has The Church replaced The Nation of Israel as God's Children? It may appear so to the untrained eye. However, what we're really seeing here is that the believers in Christ out of The Gentiles combined with the believers in Christ out of The Nation of Israel make up The Church. Together, we are God's Children. All who are in Christ are one and God doesn't distinguish between us when it comes to His promise of blessings. We, The Church of Jesus Christ don't replace Israel, we just join the believers in Christ from Israel. Hence, those who accept Christ of Jewish or Gentile heritage are treated the same.

Also, those who reject Jesus, both of Jewish and Gentile heritage will see the same fate for eternity. It's no longer good enough just to be born a Jew. Everyone has to get saved through faith in Jesus. Let me say it another way to drive the point home. Jews who reject Jesus go to hell. Gentiles who reject Jesus go to hell. Jews who accept Jesus are in God's family and spend eternity with Him. Gentiles who accept Jesus are in His family and join the Jewish believers in God's family. However, that doesn't mean Jews aren't special in God's sight. Jesus said in John 4:22(KJV) - "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews."

God's plan of redemption was fulfilled in Jesus who was a Jew and continued with The Apostles who were also Jews. They preached the gospel in Jerusalem to Jews who were the first to get saved and establish The Church. It was all about Jews getting saved until God directed several Apostles to take the show on the road and preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Therefore, The Gentiles who received Jesus joined The Jews who believed in Jesus in The Church. So, the concept of The Church replacing Jews won't make sense because The Church is full of Jews. Nonetheless, ethnic Jews still exist, so what's God's plan for The Nations of Israel and Judah?

Isaiah 45:17(NLT) - But the Lord will save the people of Israel with eternal salvation. Throughout everlasting ages, they will never again be humiliated and disgraced.

God plans to save the people of Israel also. However, let's not get carried away and think this means they don't need Jesus to get saved. Fast forward to The New Testament for more clarity concerning God's plan to save His people Israel and Judah.

Romans 9:22-29(NLT) - In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who were made for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, "Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before." And, "Then, at the place where they were told, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'children of the living God.'" And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, "Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality." And Isaiah said the same thing in another place:"If the Lord of Heaven's Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah."

So, let's start with the good news. God has a plan for the Gentiles and a plan for The Jews. His plan for The Gentiles was Jesus. His plan for the Jews was Jesus. Are they saved just because they are Jewish or from The Nation of Israel? No! Is Jewish salvation automatic? No! They need Jesus just like we need Jesus. Let's dig in some more into God's plan for Israel.

Romans 10:1-11(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don't understand God's way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God's way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. 5 For Moses writes that the law's way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith's way of getting right with God says, "Don't say in your heart, 'Who will go up to heaven' (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don't say, 'Who will go down to the place of the dead' (to bring Christ back to life again)." 8 In fact, it says, "The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart." And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

So Apostle Paul's prayer was for Israel's salvation and the only way they would receive that salvation is through confessing with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. It's a simple plan and it works for everyone. It was Apostle Paul's prayer that the remnant who would we saved would go ahead and accept the path to their salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. Let's now bring this discussion to a close with a powerful scripture.

Romans 11:7-31(NLT) - So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Scriptures say, “God has put them into a deep sleep. To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear.” Likewise, David said, “Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever.” Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it. I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead! And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too. But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either. Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong. I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, "The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins." Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. Now they are the rebels, and God's mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God's mercy.

The Apostle Paul settled the issue in this passage of scripture. Israel is the root and we, The Gentiles were grafted into the tree because Israel rejected Jesus and made room for us. Those who were grafted in have not replaced the original branches and we must stop saying that. They will be grafted in again to join us. God added to His family those who would believe and will add the people of Israel again when they choose to believe in Jesus. Israel will be saved. In fact, the time is coming when they will open their hearts to hear the gospel and everyone of them will accept Jesus.

WAIT? Did he also say what I thought he said? All Israel will be saved? How is that possible? I thought God would only save a remnant? Well, let's make sense of this. First, this scripture is referring to the end of time because it clearly states that a time is coming when the full number of Gentiles will come to Christ. Therefore, after that time no more Gentiles will be getting saved. However, there will be a mass revival in Israel when they will receive Jesus. They will finally understand that He was sent as The Savior to Jerusalem to turn them away from ungodliness. Obviously, those who are ALIVE at the time of the end will be able to accept the truth of the gospel. Those who are dead won't be in Jerusalem anymore so I don't see how this scripture refers to them.

Hence, when this scripture is compared with the others that say only a remnant of Israel will be saved there is an easy way to look at it. All of Israel at that time will be saved. Everyone will recognize Jesus for who He truly is and they will be welcomed into The Body of Christ. They will accept the Good News which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, in the end, only those who accept Jesus will be saved. Fortunately, the time is coming when the gospel will be preached in Israel in such a mighty way that all who hear it will believe. Perhaps, this is why God never gives up on Israel. He knows that one day a generation of Jews, referred to as the remnant in the last days, will get it right and accept Jesus.

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