Israel & the Church
We believe the unconditional covenant God made with Abraham is still in force today, and God will not cancel it.
God made the unconditional covenant with Abram (Abraham), recorded in Genesis 15, that includes a parcel of land in the Middle East to be inherited by Abraham’s physical descendants (v. 18). The details of this covenant’s promises are listed in Genesis 12:1–3.
First, if Abraham left his homeland to go to the land God promised him, he would become a great nation (v. 2). That is, he would have children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, leading to a large people group. This promise was fulfilled through Abraham’s son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob (whom God renamed Israel), and Jacob’s 12 sons whose growing tribes became the nation of Israel.
Second, God promised Abraham He would bless him and make his name great (v. 2). This promise has certainly been fulfilled. Almost everyone has heard of Abraham.
Third, God said Abraham would be a blessing (v. 2), a promise repeated in the next verse.
Fourth, God assured Abraham that those who bless him will be blessed and those who curse him (and his descendants) will be cursed (v. 3). If we study history, we see how God dealt with nations and leaders, such as Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and many others who have dared to destroy the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The final promise introduced in verse 2 contains more detail in verse 3: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Here the scope of promise guarantees Abraham to be a blessing to the entire world, not merely the developing Hebrew nation. As Scripture unfolds, we see the worldwide fulfillment of this last provision come through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who died; was buried; and rose again from the dead so that those who put their faith in Him would have everlasting life and a home in God’s coming earthly Kingdom (Gal. 3:8–9).
The prophecy recorded in Daniel 7 predicts that in God’s coming Kingdom, “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him” (v. 14). The apostle Paul taught that Christ redeemed us from the law, “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14).
Thus, the Abrahamic Covenant is still in force and will not be canceled by God. It is an everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:7). Israel’s disobedience of the Mosaic Law does not negate the Abrahamic Covenant’s promises: “And this I say,” wrote Paul, “that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later [than the promise to Abraham], cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ” (Gal. 3:17).
Thus, both the physical promises to Israel—such as the land—and the spiritual promises of salvation that come through Messiah are everlasting under the Abrahamic Covenant.
— Mike Stallard, FOI director of International Ministries
Israel and the Church
We believe Israel and the church are entirely different entities, with diverse paths in history according to God’s plan for each.
God is doing many different things in history as His multifaceted plan unfolds. Part of His plan involves the two institutions of Israel and the church. To be sure, throughout history, saved individuals in both institutions share some vital truths and experiences.
First, Israel began with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Genesis narrative, continuing later with Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt in Exodus. On the other hand, the church began on the day of Pentecost with the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1—2; 11:14–15; 1 Cor. 12:13).
Second, Israel in Scripture is a political nation with a functioning government. The church, however, is not. It has rules of governance, of course; but it does not have political boundaries, nor does it act as one of the countries of the world.1 In fact, it is an international institution in God’s eyes.
Third, a corollary is the fact that God promised Israel a specific land to mark off the nation’s boundaries (Gen. 15). Though disobedience would lead God to scatter the nation (Dt. 28), the people of Israel were always promised they would come back to their land (Dt. 29—32; Isa. 11; Amos 9; Zech. 12—14).
HAS THE CHURCH REPLACED ISRAEL?
For further evaluation of these differences, read Has the Church Replaced Israel? by Michael J. Vlach.
Fourth, Israel is primarily an ethnic entity, although provisions were made for Gentiles within the nation (e.g., Ruth). The church is not ethnic. It is to be comprised of diverse spiritual disciples gathered from people groups the world over (Mt. 28:19–20).
Fifth, the nation of Israel is a covenant community. It has a special relationship to the biblical covenants (Rom. 9:4). On the other hand, the church can be described as an organic, spiritual body in union with Christ and all Church Age believers by means of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4).
Such a list of differences makes it difficult to suggest there is no distinction between God’s plan for Israel and His plan for the church.
1The language from Exodus of “a holy nation” is applied to the church in 1 Peter 2:9. However, it is at best simply analogous. Using Old Testament imagery with which he was familiar, the apostle Peter was not suggesting anything other than a special grouping of individuals in God’s plan.
— Mike Stallard, FOI director of International Ministries
We believe God has not rejected the Jewish people and has a glorious plan for Israel’s future.
Throughout history, demonically inspired despots like Haman and Hitler have attempted genocide of the Jewish people. The Jews often stand before their history in sober silence, stunned and numbed by the unmitigated brutality their eyes have seen and their hearts have been unable to comprehend. Horrifying pictures of the Holocaust of World War II remind us of Satan’s relentless attempts to eradicate world Jewry.
On May 14, 1948, the Jewish people officially regained their land, as the State of Israel declared its independence as a sovereign nation for the first time in almost 2,000 years. Will Israel survive? Does God still have a plan for the Jewish nation? We believe the answer is yes! The apostle Paul wrote, “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2).
Israel will survive and have a glorious future. In fact, God guarantees Israel’s survival forever after its Messiah returns to establish His eternal Kingdom on Earth. Ezekiel 37:15–28 clearly states that Israel, which was divided after King Solomon’s death, will be reunited when the Messiah returns, never again to be destroyed. It will endure as a nation throughout eternity (v. 28).
The prophets also stated explicitly that when the Messiah returns, the Jewish people will be planted in their land forever (Jer. 32:41; Ezek. 28:25). Their restoration in these prophecies does not refer to the Jewish people returning from captivity in Babylon but, rather, to them being gathered from the worldwide Diaspora after the Great Tribulation.
Once in the land, God will institute a New Covenant with Israel (Jer. 31:31–40). This promise is futuristic and will come to fruition only at the Messiah’s glorious appearing. Then Israel’s partial spiritual blindness, mentioned in Romans, will be removed; and all Israel will be saved. The nation’s sin shall be removed forever (Rom. 11:25–27; cf. Zech. 12:10).
When Israel turns to the Lord in total repentance, the Messiah will establish the Millennial Kingdom on Earth; and the world will have true peace. Israel will play a major role on the international scene, as prophesied in Isaiah 65:18–25; Zechariah 8:1–23; and 14:16–21. God will fulfill His promise to place a descendant of David on the throne of Israel forever (2 Sam. 7).
The final evidence that Israel’s future is secure will be Messiah’s 1,000-year reign from Israel. This reign is the first stage of an everlasting, eternal Kingdom of God on Earth that will include all the redeemed throughout the ages. This Kingdom was clearly promised in God’s covenant with Israel.
We believe God will glorify Himself through Israel in the future, and Israel will be a shining example of God’s unparalleled mercy and grace.
— David M. Levy, FOI media resource specialist