(Galatians 6: 15-16) “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
Replacement theology has been a spiritual plague within Christendom even since the first century when it surfaced in Rome after the Roman Emperor Claudius had all of the Jews expelled from the city (Acts 18:2). When Paul wrote to the Assembly of New Covenant believers at Rome he was addressing this matter in his epistle. The exile of the Jews by Claudius was the catalyst Satan used to divide the Body of the Messiah which was one new man in the Messiah with the middle wall of partition separating Jew from Gentile broken down through the finished atoning work of the blood of the Messiah. The Passover Lamb our Lord Jesus was sacrificed to establish the New Covenant made with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31). Gentile believers have been spiritually grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel. God never intended there to be a Gentile Church separate from Israel (Romans 11:17-18).
After the Jewish believers had left Rome, they thought that the Gentile believers were spiritually inferior because they did not have the scriptures as given to the patriarchs and the prophets and through the Law of Moses and established by the teaching of the Lord Jesus and the apostles who were all Jewish. The Gentiles thought that the Jews were rather legalistic with all of their ceremonies and laws and religious traditions. When Nero came to power after Claudius had gone, Nero brought all of the Jews back to Rome. Most likely Nero had considered how the Jews were good for the economy of Rome. This of course reunited Jewish and gentile believers with each other but the division obviously remained.
This division was a master stroke of Satan to divide the Body of the Messiah in Rome. Satan knew that Rome was the centre of the known world and he also knew the power of the gospel to unite people of every race both Jew and gentile alike, which the scriptures clearly reveals that this was God’s intention all along (Amos 9:11-12) (Acts 15:16-18). There is only one Body of the Messiah in both Testaments being collectively all those who were saved by faith and spiritually reborn by the Spirit. In fact we are told that the Old Testament saints were spiritually connected to the New Testament saints. As we read in the Book of Hebrews concerning the Old Testament saints that these were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (The revelation of the Messiah in the person of the Lord Jesus Himself). God had planned something better for us as New Covenant believers so that together with the believers under the Old Covenant all of us have been declared perfect in God’s sight through faith in the Messiah (Hebrews 10:14) (Hebrews 11:39-40).
When writing his epistle to the Assembly at Rome Paul was showing that all men are under the judgement of God regardless of their ethnicity and that whether Jew or Gentile by birth all men are great sinners and rebels in God’s sight (Romans 1:18-32). He showed the Gentiles that even though they did not have the law they had the witness of creation itself and the demands of the law written in their conscience and so they were without excuse (Romans 2:1-16). He writes in no uncertain terms that the Jewish believers, even though they had the law and the prophets they could not keep the Law and that they could not be saved through the law (Romans 2:27).
Then Paul went on to show the assembly at Rome that whether one was a Jew or Gentile was not the issue with God, but that all who are justified by faith in the Messiah are accepted by God as His elect saints (Romans Chapter 3 and chapter 4) (Romans 5:1-2). So we see already that the Israel of God is a unified collective group of believers in both Testaments united by saving faith in the Messiah and that all who come to Him by faith are made righteous and justified in God’s sight by the same faith (Romans 3:21-31).
Let’s now see who is the Israel of God? Is this referring only to the nation of Israel literally or does it have a wider and spiritual application to a faithful remnant, not separate from the Commonwealth of Israel, but an integral part of a spiritually resurrected Israel established on the day of Pentecost which would see Gentile believers spiritually grafted into Israel? This new spiritual restoration that occurred on the day of Pentecost was in Israel, among the Jews and one that had its spiritual roots in the Old Testament scriptures and grounded in the Biblical Judaism of Moses. Who then is the Israel of God?
At the outset it needs to be said that God still has a prophetic purpose for the nation of Israel which He will bring about at the end of this present age and that Israel as a nation is His prophetic time clock for the nations. Within Israel right now, even though Jews are being saved, He has a remnant in Israel foreknown to Him who will ultimately come to faith in the Messiah at the very end of this present age and be part of the spiritually resurrected Israel which was inaugurated on the Day of Pentecost (Romans 11:5). When these come to faith all Israel will be saved! God’s elect company of believing Jews and Gentiles will be completed by those who as yet are not saved in Israel but will be saved when the Lord Jesus appears at his Second Coming (Romans 11:25-27) (Zechariah 12:10-14; 14:1-5).
As far as God is concerned His gifts and call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Israel will be completely restored spiritually and nationally. At present the nation has been partly restored nationally but after the Messiah has come back to reign from Jerusalem Israel’s national and spiritual restoration will be complete. After this, Jerusalem will become the HQ of the Messiah on earth from where He will physically reign as Israel’s rightful king for a thousand years over the Gentile nations that have survived the Time of Great Tribulation (Isaiah 2:1-5) (Micah 4:1-5) (Revelation 20:1-6). Who then are the Israel of God?
1. The Israel of God are all those who have been spiritually circumcised in their inner human spirit by the Spirit of God.
(Romans 2:28-29) “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”
(Philippians 3:3) “…for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in the Messiah Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”
When the Lord Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus the religious leader about being born again if one would see God’s kingdom, He was amazed that this religious leader of great learning and well versed in the scriptures did not know about and had not experienced this new birth by the Spirit. He should have known about it and experienced it (John 3:3, 9). In fact every believer from Abel onwards was spiritually reborn by the Spirit of God. Faith was the means by which they received this spiritual experience. Pentecost was when the Spirit was outpoured to witness to the resurrected Messiah and His salvation provided for man at the cross (Luke 24:49) (Acts 1:8) (Acts 2:4).
Before Pentecost those individual Jews in Israel who believed became members of the Israel of God, circumcised in their hearts by the Spirit and not by trying to keep the law and whose praise was from God and not man (Hebrews 11:6) (Romans 10:17). Faith is a spiritual work deep within the inner spirit man wrought by the Holy Spirit and not by the will or work of man. We see this especially in the ministry of the Lord Jesus when people were saved. As we see Him saying on several occasions to certain individuals such statements as, “Your faith has saved you go in peace” and, “today salvation has come to this house.” The apostle John writes; “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). This was before Pentecost!
All who believed in the Lord Jesus before Pentecost had the Holy Spirit inside of them as the well with the water of eternal life. This was the eternal life the Lord Jesus was offering to the prostitute at the well (John 4:10-13). After Pentecost the overflow of the Spirit would occur (John 7:37-39). Before the Living Eternal Word of God Himself, our Lord Jesus was incarnated in a flesh and blood body and tabernacled among us, He was active in the Old Testament and through the Holy Spirit imparting saving faith into the hearts of those individuals who had faith in God. The faith that the Old Testament saints had was no different from the faith we have today as New Covenant believers or that people had in the New Testament times. The same faith that Abraham was justified by in God’s sight is exactly the same type of faith every born again believer has dwelling in them. Abraham is the father of faith and of all who believe (Romans 4:11, 16-17, 22-25).
Jeremiah the prophet also spoke about a future time when through the New Covenant made with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah individual Jews would see the law of God put into the minds and written on their hearts and that all who receive the Spirit in this way would be taught by Him (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This will be completely fulfilled in Israel when the Lord Jesus comes back (Zechariah 12:10-14) (Ezekiel 37:9-28).
On the Day of Pentecost Israel was spiritually resurrected but it was partial not complete and recognised as being the means by which Gentiles would also be brought into the blessings of the New Covenant in the Messiah’s blood. James and the apostles at Jerusalem recognised this mystery now revealed that God had always intended the Gentiles to be spiritually grafted into the elect company of the Israel of God corporately (Amos 9:11-12) (Acts 15:12-18). This was the same mystery revealed by God to the apostle Paul (Colossians 1:25-27).
So far it is clear that there is only one flock and one shepherd and that the Messiah has only one bride which He will take to Himself when He returns and every believer that has ever lived on earth in both the Old and the New Testament times down through the ages, will be raptured and resurrected! As Job declares “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!”(Job 19:25-27). Job lived even before the time of Abraham.
2. The Israel of God were the Jews called by the name Israel by God Himself when He bestowed that name upon Jacob after he had wrestled with the pre-incarnate Messiah.
(Genesis 32:24-28) “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the founding fathers and patriarchs of Israel. These were men of faith and those who encountered the pre-incarnate Messiah who spoke to them personally. There are quite a few instances of this in the Old Testament and the Messiah also appeared to others. The Angel of the Lord always used in the definite article. Not “an angel” but “the angel” was in a class of his own and was the pre-incarnate Messiah, as was Melchizedek who brought bread and wine to Abraham and this is a separate subject in itself.
God gave the name Israel to the Jewish people through the patriarch Jacob and gave the Land of Israel to the decedents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be for them “an everlasting possession” and not to the decedents of Ishmael and Esau, the fathers of the Arab nations (Genesis 15:4, 17-19; 17:7-8, 15-22). So once again we see that the Israel of God collectively is all who have faith in God and that the Israel of God cannot be restricted only to the Jewish nation. Abraham was the spiritual father and patriarch of many nations (Genesis 17:4-5). This includes Gentiles who after they had believed in the Messiah were incorporated into the company of God’s elect saints collectively and called the Israel of God. What we must not lose sight of is that the first century assemblies of New Covenant believers were Jewish at their very root. Their Bible was the Old Testament. Gentiles were spiritually grafted into this elect company of Jewish assemblies in the first century and are still being grafted in through faith in the Messiah our Lord Jesus. This was always God’s eternal plan and purpose for Gentiles who believed in the Messiah (Isaiah 42:6-7) (Isaiah 9:2) (Isaiah 49:6) (Luke 2:32).
The Lord Jesus was Jewish; all of the prophets were Jewish. All of the writers of the New Testament were Jewish. In fact the whole Bible is a Jewish book. As the Lord Jesus said “Salvation is of the Jews!” As the apostle Paul writes; “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). For the first century assemblies they were rooted and grounded in the apostle’s doctrine which was held in common by every assembly that Paul founded (Acts 2:42).
Denominations were never on God’s radar, neither was the idea of a separate group called ‘the Church’ that was separate from Israel! Thanks to the Greek and Latin Church ‘fathers’ such as Augustine, they established a ‘Church’ that was separate from the Jewish roots of the early Assemblies established by the apostles and Augustine’s view of replacement theology became the breeding ground for replacement theology and anti-Semitism which infested Christendom historically and which we still see rampant and increasing within wider Christendom today.
Replacement Theology really kicked in when the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and as a result many pagan rituals and objects of pagan origin were ‘Christianised.’ A separate subject! The apostasy really started in the time of Constantine and has been increasing in measure and in intensity down through history even to the present day and will come to a head just before the man of sin is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Replacement theology today is the result of this work of Satan to rebuild the dividing wall of partition between Jews and gentiles which was removed by the atoning blood of the Messiah (Ephesians 2:11-18). All who exercise saving faith in the Messiah then, both Jew and Gentile, are all collectively the Israel of God corporately and members of the Body of the Messiah and fellow citizens with all of God’s people both Jew and Gentile in the Messiah. As the apostle Paul writes; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in the Messiah Jesus. And if you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29). All who believe are the children of Abraham the father of faith and are the Israel of God collectively! (Romans 4:11-18)
We must always remember that the New Covenant was cut with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah, not with the Church! (Jeremiah 31:31). Gentile believers are spiritually grafted into the Israel of God, being saved Jews, and partake of the spiritual blessings bestowed on those Jews who have been saved through faith in the Messiah and with whom the Lord Jesus cut the New Covenant with His own blood shed on the altar of sacrifice at the cross. The blessings given to Abraham are bestowed upon all who believe whether they are Jew or Gentile and this includes receiving the Holy Spirit (Romans 4:16-17) (Galatians 3:14).
The Messiah our Lord Jesus is the Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for both Jew and gentile believers in Him (1 Corinthians 5:7). They are one flock under one shepherd and rooted and grounded in the doctrine of both the old and the New Testament. As it has been said; “The New is in the Old concealed and the Old is in the New revealed!” The whole Bible is a Jewish book and must be understood from the perspective of the Jewish mindset. This also goes for understanding and interpreting Biblical prophecy!
3. The Israel of God can also be applied to the nation of Israel corporately in relation to God’s prophetic purposes for Israel as a nation.
(Romans 9:27-29) “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah”
(Romans 11:1-6) “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
God is dealing with the nation of Israel for several reasons. Firstly; because of His Covenant cut with Abraham concerning the land of Israel to be for him and his physical descendants through Isaac “an everlasting possession.” Secondly; because He always honours His covenants and has ratified them through blood covenants in scripture and ultimately through the perfect and final blood covenant cut with Abraham’s seed being the Messiah our Lord Jesus (Galatians 3:16).
Thirdly; God is dealing with Israel because of His promise to restore Israel as a nation in the last days with authority over all of the nations which will occur in the Millennial Messianic Kingdom after the Lord Jesus has come back to reign from Jerusalem as the King of Israel over all of the nations that will exist on earth. The Millennium will see the earth itself fully accomplish the purpose for which it was originally created and that for the benefit of man. This will happen in the regeneration of all things in the age to come (Matthew 19:28a).
Fourthly; because God has a remnant of Jews within Israel chosen according to His divine wisdom and foreknowledge and by His unmerited favour that as yet are to be saved and come into the bond of the New Covenant. Paul understood this. When they have all come into this bond then indeed it will be said in that day “All Israel will be saved!” These will be incorporated into the Israel of God being all who have put their faith in God and in the Messiah since the time of Abel!
As Paul writes; “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:25-29).
On the Day of Pentecost it was a Jewish remnant that was united as one by the Holy Spirit and as a result Gentiles who believed after this time were spiritually grafted into the Israel of God being represented in scripture by the Olive Tree. The apostle Paul tells us about this in the Book of Romans chapter eleven. He writes about the olive tree and its branches and what they represent.
The natural branches connected to the Olive Tree are individual Jews who have believed in the Messiah and are bearing spiritual fruit for God. The wild olive branches grafted into the Olive Tree are individual gentiles who have believed in the Messiah and are also bearing spiritual fruit for God. The natural branches broken off and separate from the Olive Tree are individual Jews who have not believed in the Messiah. These branches broken off do not represent Israel as a nation, as those into replacement theology are teaching. The root that supplies the spiritual sap is the Messiah Himself “the root of Jesse” and the true vine! (Romans 11:15-24) (John 15:1-8).
If the Olive Tree is gone so are the branches! Israel is to pass through the time of Jacob’s Trouble which God will permit, not to destroy Israel but to bring forth a remnant who will be meek of spirit and who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). The surviving remnant in Israel will be saved out of it (Jeremiah 30:1-7) Immediately after this time the Messiah Himself will reign from Jerusalem as Israel’s king (Jeremiah 30:8-10). This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven and these surviving Jews who see Him coming in the clouds of heaven will be raptured and resurrected along with all of the saints of all ages. The Messiah will have His bride and the wedding feast will occur. In that day Jerusalem will be lifted higher geographically than all of the existing cities of the world (Micah 4:1-5).
As the sons of Korah write in the psalms; “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in loftiness, the joy of all the earth, like the peaks of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the great King!” (Psalm 48:1-2). As Zechariah prophesies; “This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Old men and old women will again sit along the streets of Jerusalem, each with a staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “If this is impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be impossible in My eyes?” declares the LORD of Hosts!”(Zechariah 8:4-6).
The Lord Jesus Himself said; “Many will come from the east and the west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). Luke puts it this way when he writes; “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29). In that day the kingdom of heaven will be visibly seen on earth as the kingdom of God and the banquet will be something to behold in that day when the saints of all the ages will fill the land of Israel sitting at the wedding banquet of the Messiah celebrating with His bride! As the Lord Jesus Himself also said to the Jews who believed in Him; “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (Israel). I must bring them in also. They too will listen to My voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).
And so Paul writes; “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
As it is also written “If any man is in the Messiah he is now a brand new creation deep down on the inside, the old manner of sinful living in the past has gone, and the new life in the Spirit has commenced” (2 Corinthians 5:17) (Expanded version).
So then the Israel of God is all those in both Testaments and down through history even to the present day and up until the Second Coming of the Messiah who have believed and will believe in Him for salvation. If you have repented and by faith have been born again by the Spirit, redeemed, justified, and washed by the blood of the Messiah and have exercised saving faith in Him, having been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise for the day of redemption, then you are a member of the Israel of God being the corporate elect community of New Covenant Bible believers.
You are no longer excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise without hope and without God in this world. But now in the Messiah you who once were afar away have been brought near through the blood of the Messiah… Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2:11-19). You are part of God’s forever family! You are the Israel of God!