True Church and True Israel

Question
Is the true church the true Israel?
Answer
Yes, the invisible church (see below) throughout the ages is the true Israel. There are Old Testament attributions to this throughout the New Testament:

  • One flock of God (John 10:15-16; 1 Pet. 5:2-3; cf. Ezek. 34:12-16).
  • The congregation in the wilderness (Acts 7:38; Heb. 2:12; 12:1; cf. Num. 16:3; Deut. 4:10). The Greek term ekklesia meaning "church": (ek meaning "out" and kaleo meaning "call," and put together ekklesia means the "called out") is used 92 times in the LXX (= Greek version of OT).
  • Circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:11; cf. Gen. 17:9-15; Deut. 30:6; Josh. 5:1-8; Acts 7:51; Eph. 2:11; Phil. 3:2).
  • The seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:13-16; Gal. 3:29; cf. Gen. 17:5; Psa. 105:6-7).
  • The sons/children of God (Rom. 8:14, 16; 9:26; Gal. 3:26; 1 John 3:1-2; cf. Exod. 4:22; Deut. 14:1).
  • The people of God (Rom. 9:22-26; 1 Pet. 2:10; cf. Hos. 1:10; 2:23). In Romans 9:24-26, Paul quotes Hosea who is speaking about Israel and applies it to the church of the living God.
  • The olive tree (Rom. 11:17-24; cf. Jer. 11:16; Hos. 14:6).
  • God’s field (1 Cor. 3:9; cf. Jer. 12:10).
  • I will be their God, and they shall be my people (2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10; Rev. 21:3; cf. Gen. 17:8; Exod. 6:7; 29:45; Lev. 26:12; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:1, 33; 32:38; Ezek. 11:19-20; 14:10-11; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Hos. 2:23; Zech. 8:8; 13:9).
  • The Israel of God (Gal. 6:16). This refers to the "all Israel" who will be saved (cf. Rom. 11:26. This phrase refers to the church as a whole.
  • A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession (Eph. 1:4-5; Col. 3:12; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; cf. Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 4:20; 7:6-7; 14:2; Isa. 43:20-21).
  • The household of God (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15; cf. Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2).
  • The wife/bride of God (Eph. 5:25-32; Rev. 21:9-14; cf. Isa. 54:4-7).

This is not replacement theology (see below), but fulfillment theology. In Acts 15:15-18, when speaking at the Jerusalem Council, James quotes from Amos 9:11-12 which concerns the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David – the restoration of Israel:

And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, 'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.'

Are Gentiles now seeking the Lord? Yes. Are Gentiles in the church? Yes. We can notice in the bolded portion above James concludes that because the Gentiles are coming into the church, the restoration of Israel has already taken place. Jesus is the restoration of Israel; in this way all Israel (which includes Gentiles) will be saved (Rom. 11:26-27).

It’s also important to understand Paul’s theology. He at first describes Gentiles being excluded from the commonwealth and strangers to the covenants (Eph. 2:12), but just a few verses later he writes “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). So, a transformation has taken place. In Christ, believing Gentiles have been admitted into the commonwealth of Israel!

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).