Who are the people of God: the church or Israel?

downloadBridges for Peace is a Christian organisation that is very pro the modern state of Israel and state on their website:

“Through programs both in Israel and worldwide, we are giving Christians the opportunity to actively express their biblical responsibility before God to be faithful to Israel and the Jewish community.  Israel is central to God’s plan for mankind. Pick up your Bible and leaf through the pages. It won’t be long before you see Israel. God chose to reveal Himself to the world through the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. We were blessed through them to receive the Word of God; our Messiah, Yeshua; and salvation. While some Christians have the idea that God is finished with Israel and is now only embracing the Church, that is not God’s idea.”

Bridges for Peace view themselves as Christian Zionists and teach that the modern state of Israel is the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy and vital to the unfolding of the plan of God for the world.  They would say that God has one plan for the church and another plan for Israel.

One plan of God

The Bible tells us in many places that God has a wonderful plan to call rebellious people to himself and that this plan was formed before the creation of the world.

God could have rejected humans after Adam and Eve rebelled against him, but he didn’t.  In grace, God called Abraham.   God promised Abraham many descendants, that they would live in their own land, and that they would bring blessing to people from all the nations of the world. (Genesis 12:1-3)

Abraham believed God’s promise and went to where God sent him.   In other words, Abraham had faith which is the right response to God.

God’s great rescuing plan is in action: God revealed himself to Abraham in order to bless people from all the nations of the world through Abraham’s descendants.

Abraham’s descendants were known as Israelites.  

After many years in the Promised Land, God raised up an important king, David, to rule over the Israelites.  God promised King David that one of his descendants will be a great king and he will save his people and his kingdom would last forever.  David was an Israelite and the great, coming king who would therefore be a descendant of Abraham and of King David.

The prophets in the Old Testament made great prophecies about this future king.  How he would reign from a renewed temple and a restored Jerusalem.  How the word of God would go out from Jerusalem to people of all the nations of the world.  

Son of Abraham 

After the close of the Old Testament period, God was silent for 400 years.  Then on one seemingly ordinary day, a baby named Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  

The first sentence in the New Testament is very significant:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)

The New Testament tells us that Jesus’ coming was the high point of the plan of God to bless (save) people from all the nations of the world.  Jesus is the descendant of Abraham and the king in the line of David whose kingdom will never end.   He came to save people from their sins and the judgment of God.  Jesus died to take the penalty and judgement for our sins.  He rose out of the dead giving new life to all who put their faith in him.  He ascended into heaven and promised to return.  When he does return God will judge every human being.   If anyone has not put their faith in God’s promise they will bear the judgement of God themselves – an eternity in hell separated from God.

We now live in the gospel age.  God is delaying Jesus’ return to give people an opportunity to turn to him in faith.

When Jesus returns the age to come will be upon us and God will establish the new heaven and the new earth and people from all the nations of the world will dwell with God forever.

Temple

During his time on earth, Jesus said he was the renewed temple. (cf. John 2:19-22) The Old Testament temple simply pointed us to the reality Jesus.  We don’t need a physical temple in Jerusalem to meet with God anymore. Jesus is our temple.

Jerusalem

Hebrews 12:22-24 says that when people from all the nations of the world come by faith to Jesus we come to the heavenly Jerusalem; therefore, we don’t expect a renewed earthly Jerusalem.  All the Old Testament types and institutions were a pointer to our reality in Jesus.   Our hope is in the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly Jerusalem.  The word of God has gone out of Jerusalem as the gospel spread. (Cf. Acts 1:8)

One people of God

Some Christians still think that there are two people of God: the church and Israel.  However, the one people of God has always been and will always be those who believe God’s promise.  One of the earliest members of the people of God was Abraham who believed God’s promise.  The people of God includes you, if you believe God’s promise.

Listen to God’s promise:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

Israel and the Jewish people have largely rejected the greatest expression of God’s promise – Jesus.  It will shock you to know that in Revelation 2:9 Jesus calls a synagogue of Jews the synagogue of Satan.  Why? Because they rejected Jesus.

The fundamental question is: who are the people of God?

Galatians 3:29 contains an important truth:

“If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Who are Abraham’s offspring and therefore heirs of God’s promise to bless? (Cf. Genesis 12:1-3) The Israelites? The Jewish nation? No.  It says, “If you are Christ’s”.  The one people of God are those (Jews and Gentiles) who believe in Jesus and therefore belong to Christ.  Christians are the people of God.

The Holy Land?

If you want to go on a tour to Israel and get baptised in the Jordan River, go right ahead and enjoy yourself; but don’t think it will magically make you a better Christian.

Jesus is the place where we meet with God.

We look to the heavenly Jerusalem not the earthly. (Cf. Revelation 21:1-2)

We look to the new heaven and the new earth, not to Israel.

All the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus, in his coming and return, not in Israel.

In Exodus 19:1-6 God addressed Israel, his Old Testament people.  In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter (who came from a Jewish background) used the same words and terminology to address Christians! (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10) The people of God has always been and will always be those who believe God’s promise.

You can support the state of Israel if you want, but don’t do it because you think the Bible says you must or should.

The Bible says that we must love all people, incl the Jewish people, Muslims, Hindus and atheists.

The Bible says that all those without Christ need to hear about him, including Jewish people.

One God. One plan. One people. 

 

PS. Christian Zionism has greatly influenced American politics and has been a huge force in escalating tensions in the Middle East.