|Vatican synod called by Pope Benedict XVI |
to address the plight of Christians in the Middle East
Who is Israel and to what group of people is God referring to when we see that reference in Scripture, especially the New Testament?
This can be a question which generates much debate...from the 'Christian identity sects' who all want to claim to be descendants of Israel to those who deny the existence of Israel altogether. However, this is also a topic about which Scripture is very clear.
In a Vatican Synod last week addressing the nation of Israel's presence in the Gaza Strip, the Roman Catholic Church stated:
"We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people – all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people."Now the Roman Catholic Church has a highly anti-semitic history, which is consistent with the anti-christ spirit under it operates (even while waving a false banner of "Christianity"). However, once again the Scriptures clearly refute the erroneous assertions of this institution. God repeatedly states that there is still a particular people which He chooses as His own.
"Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." I Peter 2:7-10
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titus 2:13-14
There is a chosen generation, a peculiar people that God calls His people. Is this "all men and women of all countries" as the Catholic Church states? No! It is those who believe in Christ, and these individuals are contrasted against those whom God calls "disobedient". So while the Ecumenical movement desires to weave all religions together as equally acceptable to God, this is a lie. Although the chosen are "few", they are still chosen (Matthew 20:16, 22:14). Those who stand with Christ at the end of time are not only called and chosen, but faithful (Revelation 17:14).
nullified by Christ". This is because that organization holds to what is called a Replacement Theology, which claims that the Church has replaced Israel as God's chosen people. Therefore, according to this doctrine, God is no longer dealing with the physical descendants of Israel as His people.
There is also another extreme to this position which might be called a Wipeout Theology, because it essentially attempts to wipe Israel off of the map when it comes to them ever being God's people. It says that the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were never considered by God to be His people. Instead, they claim that Scriptural references to "Israel" refer only to those "spiritual Jews" based on faith and never a national heritage.
Both of these theologies are false.
Natural Israel is Still "Israel"
The New Testament continues to speak of the literal, physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as "Israel", disputing the fact that this word always signifies the Christian Church.
"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I." II Corinthians. 11:22
Paul is speaking here of false prophets who are not part of the Body of Christ. He confirms that these Hebrews of the physical lineage of Abraham are in fact Israelites.
"Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" I Corinthians 10:18
There remains an "Israel after the flesh" or in other words, an Israel determined by one's genealogy or earthly heritage.
"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." Romans 9:3-4
Here Paul grieves over the lost condition of his "kinsmen according to the flesh" because they have not turned in faith to Christ. Without question, Paul confirms that these kinsmen are Israelites, in spite of their unbelief.
Natural Israel is Still God's Chosen People
Not only are there New Testament references to the physical Jews still being Israel, they are also dealt with by God as His people. Jesus Christ did not nullify God's promises to them.
"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." Romans 11:25
In referencing Israel, Paul addresses their lack of faith in Christ. Notice that God's promises to them have not been nullified by Christ, as the RCC asserts. God is using the Christian Church to move His people (Israel) to jealousy and by that turn their hearts back to Him as He continues to fulfill His promises to them (Romans 11:7-12). They have been blinded in part only until all of the Gentiles who will be saved have come into the faith. At that point, the blindness in Israel is lifted and they will see and recognize their Savior (Zechariah 12:10, Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7).
"As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes." Romans 11:28
Going further to discuss the blindness of the Jews, Paul calls these Israelites "beloved" of God. Not only are the unbelieving Jews still God's people, but they are agapētos meaning "esteemed, dear, favorite, worthy of love". As with us, this is not because of any righteousness they possess. Rather, it demonstrates the faithfulness of God as He continues to honor the promises made to their forefathers. Such promises do not grant the natural Jews salvation - for they still need to turn in faith to Christ to be saved - but it does mean that they continue to be recognized by God as His people.
"I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew." Romans 11:1-2a
God's people have not been replaced nor "cast away", but He works in them even now until the Second Coming to bring them to repentance and faith in Christ (Revelation 7:4-8).
There is Also a "Spiritual" Israel
"For neither is circumcision [now] of any importance, nor uncircumcision, but [only] a new creation [the result of a new birth and a new nature in Christ Jesus, the Messiah]" Galatians 6:15-16 Amplified Version
The physical people of Israel are often symbolized in Scripture as an "olive tree" (Jeremiah 11:16-17; Hosea 14:5-6; Romans 11:24). In Romans Chapter 11, we are told that Gentile believers in Christ Jesus are engrafted into that same tree to be made partaker of the root (who is Christ) and fatness (the blessings) of the tree. This of course is not a physical engrafting where our earthly heritage changes; it is a spiritual birth with a spiritual inheritance. We have not supplanted the olive tree, but are joined to and made one with it (Ephesians 2:15).
It is through this new birth that Jerusalem becomes the "mother of us all" and Abraham the "father of us all" (Galatians 4:26; Romans 4:16). The same also makes us people of the "circumcision" in that we have been circumsized spiritually in our hearts (Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:29; Colossians 2:11). We are brought "nigh" unto the commonwealth of Israel making us "fellow citizens" with them (Ephesians 2:11-13, 19-20).
Why All the Confusion About Israel?
"And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Genesis 12:2-3
With all of the Scriptural evidence to the contrary, some might wonder how people can assert that Israel is no longer God's people.
Why is there so much animosity against Israel? Why such attempts to not only discredit them, or replace them, but to remove any remembrance of them from the face of the earth? The problem that the RCC has with Israel is the same problem that the world in general has: Israel is God's chosen people.
The natural seed of Israel was chosen to bring forth the Messiah in the flesh. The spiritual seed of Israel is chosen to bring forth the Messiah in spirit. Therefore the world - and all of its systems (religious, financial educational, governmental) - hates Israel, both natural and spiritual, because they bring forth the one who stands against the world: Jesus Christ.
I stated this above, but I want to reiterate just in case there are any questions. Although the natural people of Israel are still considered by God to be His people, that does not grant them salvation. They must turn in faith to Jesus Christ and be born again (Romans 11:23-24). They must become Jews "inwardly" in order to be saved (Romans 2:29). Yet, God is not through with them yet. They still remain His people as He urges them to repentance, and He continues to keep His promises to them even today. The "Promised Land" was not given to Israel by man, and neither can it be taken away by man. It is their promised inheritance from the Lord. Once the time of the Gentiles has been completed, He will turn His focus back to them once more (in the land He has given them) as Jesus comes forth to defend them in the Battle of Armageddon.
Whenever you see hatred of the Jews, know that you are looking at those who likewise hate the church. It is the spirit of anti-christ. Similarly, what happens to the physical nation of Israel in the natural is a reflection of what happens to Christians in the spirit. Just as the nation of Israel's enemies are encamped around her to bring about her destruction, so are the enemies of the church gathered spiritually around her to bring about our destruction. The anti-christ spirit hates God's people...all of them. Yet God will prevail for He is strong to deliver.