Is the Church Really the New Israel?
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Is the church really the new Israel? And, if so, what is to become of the old Israel? What about Jewish believers today? The relationship of Israel and the Church has been debated for centuries and probably will continue to be a source of controversy until the Lord returns. Let us examine Scripture to find the answers.
Under the old covenant, Israel failed to be what God called them to be: a royal priesthood and a light to the nations (Ex. 19:5–6; Isa. 42:6). Despite God's adoption of Israel as His son (Hos. 11:1), Israel still failed. After failing to live up to its filial identity, Israel was expelled from the land.
Let us compare Exodus and Matthew.
Notice the similarities. A tyrant (the Pharaoh) tried to destroy God’s chosen son Israel before the nation was born. And now a tyrant (King Herod) tries to destroy God’s Son Jesus at his birth. Because Israel had not fulfilled its calling, Jesus is born into the same reign of evil. Jesus is called to walk where Israel walked, under oppression and affliction from earthly rulers. Jesus is called to fulfil what Israel left unfulfilled.
Jesus is the true Israel, the faithful Israel who succeeds where old covenant Israel failed. Like ancient Israel, He came up out of Egypt, passed through the waters, and was tested in the wilderness. Unlike old covenant Israel, however, Jesus passed the test. He is therefore worthy to be called God’s Son (Hos. 11:1).
In Mt. 2:15, Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1 – "out of Egypt I called my son" as a fulfilment of a prophecy about Jesus Christ. Matthew therefore tells the story of Jesus as the fulfilment of Israel’s unfulfilled story.
Jesus is the Last Adam, the suffering servant, the son of David, the faithful remnant, the ultimate prophet, the reigning king, the final priest and the true Israel. The good news of the gospel tells us that we can be the true Israel of God as well. If we are in Christ, we share in the privileges and relationship He enjoys as God’s true Son. Jesus is the true Israel, and the church becomes the Israel of God as it unites to True Israel.
There is no "new Israel". The Church hasn't become a new Israel, nor has it replaced old Israel. Simply put, followers of the Jewish King, believers in the Jewish Messiah, make up true (not new) Israel. If those followers are Gentiles, they have been grafted in and given citizenship in Israel—that is, they have been made part of God's people.The same is true for ethnic Israel, whom God has not abandoned. But only by being united with Jesus, our King, Messiah and Saviour, will they have hope.
Let us pray.
As a Gentile Christian, I thank you for grafting me into Your tree (Rom. 11). How grateful I am to be able to enjoy the blessings of being in a covenant relationship with You, those blessings that you first granted to Israel. Even as I embrace my identity in Christ, help me Lord never to forget my "Jewish roots" because if we belong to Jesus the True Israel, we are also descendents of Abraham. Let me not become prideful because of my relationship with you and may I never look down on others who have yet to be grafted into Your tree. Help me, Lord, to grow in my understanding of the Old Testament. Though I’ve studied this portion of your Word for years, there is still so much that I have to learn.
In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.