Many prominent Evangelical leaders are making bold proclamations that they are standing behind the state of Israel. Despite the widespread rejection of the Messiah among the inhabitants of Israel, and the great complications from the Scriptures which result from the belief that we must stand behind the Palestinian state.
Evangelical leaders like John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and Hal Lindsay, all noted for false prophetic predictions and doctrinal teachings are some of the strongest supporters of this theory. Despite the abundance of evidence that these are false teachers, teaching damnable heresies, those who adhere to their teachings are numerous within the Evangelical churches. Such teachers gain adherence for suggesting that you are cursed if you curse the nation of Israel, and you are blessed if you bless the nation of Israel, quoting Genesis 12:3 as their text of support. Such theories would have condemned John the Baptist, who said to the fleshly seed of Abraham, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?…say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matt. 3:7-9) More than this, it would have condemned Jesus, who said to the representatives of the Jewish nation, “the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt. 21:43)
There are two primary groups regarding the ideas of who the chosen people are.
Some will claim that the flesh-and-blood Israelites are the chosen people. And the Christian church are the Gentiles who have received Jesus.
Another class will claim that the chosen people was Israel until Christ died. Then the era of the chosen people changed dispensations, and the Christian church became “spiritual Israel” and God was done with fleshly Israel forever. The first class will charge the second class with teaching ‘replacement theology”.
Yet the fact is that both of these positions are not sustainable according to the Bible. This article will examine the question: “Who is Real Israel?”
WHO IS ISRAEL?
The very first introduction to the name Israel in the Bible is found in the experience of Jacob in Genesis 32. Jacob’s name means by definition “Supplanter; Usurper, Deceiver”. Every name amongst the people of God were to have significance. Adam’s name, when literally translated, was the Hebrew word for “earth”, where Adam was taken from. This continued to be the case with the Hebrew people.
Jacob was named for being a heel-grabber, as he came forth and grabbed the heel of his firstborn brother Esau. Jacob, being desiring of the blessing of the birthright, usurped the blessing by assuming the name as Esau before his blind father, stealing it from his brother who had sold off his right to the birthright. When Esau discovered that Jacob had received the birthright from his father by usurpation, Esau was incensed against him and Jacob fled for his life.
Jacob lived for years in this manner, aware of his deception, desirous of the blessing, but having obtained it by deception and fraud. When confronted by the apostate armies of Esau which would meet him by morning, he spent the night in prayer, where the Angel of the Presence of God met him. Jacob wrestled with the Angel, desiring the blessing of the covenant truly and honestly, and not by fraud and deception.
Upon Jacob’s persistence to not let the Holy One free from his midst, coveting the blessing, he said “I will not let You go, except You bless me!” It was here that the Divine Representative led Jacob to confessing his sin. “What is your name?” Here was a reminder that Jacob was not Esau, but he was Jacob; a liar and a usurper. To this, the Angel responded: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)
No longer did his name mean deceiver. He was given a new name, meaning “Prince of God”, “Reigns with God”, “Power with God” which means an overcomer; and this gave him the right to the desired blessing. It was not flesh and blood which kept the promised blessing away from him Jacob; but neither was it flesh and blood which gave it to him either. How different is that from today! Today, we have literally millions of Evangelicals placing confidence in the fleshly seed of Abraham, believing flesh and blood shall have preference in the eyes of God, even if they sell of their birthright like Esau for some worldly advantage.
DOES FLESH AND BLOOD INHERIT GOD’S KINGDOM?
Consider this, regarding the blessings of God before we go further into this subject of who Israel really is. Many firstborn children, to whom it was their right to receive the honor of being the chosen line, through whom Messiah would come. Cain, the firstborn of Adam, was desirous of the blessing, but failed of receiving it. God declaring to Cain, “If you do well, shall you not receive the excellency?” (Gen. 4:7) Yet in jealousy, he slew Cain. When Abraham, according to Sarah’s infirmity of her womb, could not receive children by her, he ventured to receive a chosen line through his servant Hagar. Ishmael was born, and Abraham pleaded that he should be the heir of the chosen people of God. But hear the response of God to Abraham: “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant…” (Gen. 17:19). If we continue on, we see Esau as firstborn but failing of the birthright. Reuben, firstborn of the twelve sons of Israel, failed to receive the birthright on account of his sin (1 Chron. 5:1).
Whenever sin was practiced by the fleshly seed, the people were rejected. When the majority of Israel rejected God through corporate sin, warnings were sent through the mouths of the prophets. When the warnings were rejected, the protection of God was removed, and the chosen people were scattered. God would then take a remnant who desired His ways on the earth from among Israel, and they would be raised up. The rest were generally absorbed into the heathen nations, though they could trace their genetic heritage to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
Jesus is clear; “the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63), “that which is born of flesh is flesh…” (John 3:6). The apostle Paul further relates that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Cor. 15:50) How can we continue saying that the Palestinian race are heirs of the Kingdom of God, irrespective of their deeds? A closer examination of the Scriptures reveals a completely different picture regarding Israel.
THE STONES OF ISRAEL
When Jacob was given the name Israel, he was gifted with the name because he bore the fruits of repentance. He had turned from his sin, was declared to be an overcomer, one having power with God, and would reign with Him. Without this first step of repentance, the identity of Israel is but a vain profession. Such a man possesses no victory over sin, nor power with God, and will never reign as a prince with Him; in fact, he possesses no more vitality or consecration to God than does the heathen who know not God. What does he possess being born from the earthly lineage of Abraham? An empty title.
“Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:8-9) This was the testimony of John the Baptist to the religious leaders of the children of Israel. The testimony is highly significant of what God desires Israel to be; fruitful trees, full of the fruit of repentance; the fruits of the Holy Spirit; a righteous people against whom there is no law.
Said Christ to these same religious leaders, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Christ referenced a verse in Psalms, which speaks of the builders, national Israel, who reject Christ, who is called “the Stone” which is declared to be the cornerstone of the construction.
Cornerstones are incredibly important to a building project. It is the first stone established in the construction, and it’s proper setting is crucial to the entire building, since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. If the builders reject this cornerstone, their building is “in vain” (Ps. 127:1).
John the Baptist’s testimony was clear that if the leaders of Israel did not bear the fruit, God could raise up from “these stones” children to Abraham. What stones are these? They are stones perfectly aligned with the cornerstone. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) This is another vital component to understanding who Israel is. Israel cannot be separated from Christ, the Cornerstone of the Kingdom of God.
THE TRUE IDENTITY OF ISRAEL REVEALED
When understanding that Israel is only rightly called Israel when in connection with Christ, and associated with good fruits of repentance, overcoming and power with God, and to reign in His kingdom as a prince, a better picture of Israel’s true identity is more easily understood. But a deeper revelation of Israel is contained in the Scriptures.
Corporately, God identifies Israel as His son. In Egypt, by the mouth of Moses, he declared to Pharaoh, “Israel is My son, even My firstborn … Let My son go.” (Exodus 4:22,23) Notice that God does not say, “They are my sons… Let my sons go.” God identifies Israel as the firstborn son of God.
One of the most remarkable revelations in all the Scripture however comes to us via the Word of God to Hosea. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1) Hosea illustrates a simple historical fact. Israel was a child, a son, called the son of God, and was called out of Egypt. On the surface, this may not seem so profound. But in the gospel of Matthew, the apostle employs this verse in a different manner.
“Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)
Here, Levi Matthew uses the verse speaking of Israel, called the firstborn son of God and attaches this to Christ Himself! In fact, from this point forward, he compares the history of Israel’s sojourn into and out of Egypt with the Messiah. Here, we will examine some of these unmistakably beautiful parallels.
In the book of Genesis, a man named Joseph has dreams and goes into Egypt to preserve his family (Genesis 45:5).
In the New Testament, another Joseph likewise had dreams and goes into Egypt to preserve his family (Matthew 2:13).
A SON OUT OF EGYPT
When the young nation of Israel comes out of Egypt, God calls them “my son” (Exodus 4:22).
When Jesus comes out of Egypt, God says “Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Matthew 2:15).
When Israel leaves Egypt, her people go through the Red Sea. The apostle Paul says they were “baptized unto Moses … in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:2).
Jesus is also baptized “to fulfill all righteousness,” and immediately afterward God proclaims Him, “my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:15-17)
THE WILDERNESS OF TEMPTATION
After the Red Sea crossing, the Israelites spend 40 years in the wilderness—led by the pillar of fire, symbolic of God’s Spirit.
Immediately after baptism, Jesus is “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness” for 40 days (Matthew 4:1, 2).
At the end of the 40 years, Moses writes Deuteronomy.
At the end of Jesus’ 40 days, He resists Satan’s temptations by quoting three Scriptures—all from Deuteronomy.
OVERCOMER & PRINCE
In the Old Testament, the name “Israel” first applied to one man: Jacob—representing his spiritual victory over sin being called a prince to reign with God in His kingdom.
Even so, in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the Israel who came “out of Egypt.” He is the one victorious man who overcame all sin! He is called “the great prince” and “Messiah the Prince” who reigns with God on His throne. (Dan. 9:25, Rev. 3:21)
OTHER PARALLELS- DEEPER TRUTH
This theme is woven into the fabric of the entire Scripture. Christ is the true Israel. He is the overcomer by which all overcome. He is the Son by which we are called sons. He is the firstborn heir which makes us heirs. He is the Prince reigning with God, and if we overcome, we shall reign with Him. God’s people are inextricably bound up with the identity of Christ. None can lay hold of the claim to be truly Israel unless they have overcome by the blood of the Lamb. None can be called a son of God except through the only-begotten Son of God. And how can God call Israel “My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22) when Christ is declared to be “the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15)? The sobering reality settles that those who belong to the Kingdom of God, and those who may rightly lay hold on the name Israel in truth are those who are the purchased possession of Christ.
Anciently, it was the righteous firstborns were entitled to the birthright of their fathers. They would be called heirs of the substance of their father’s house. When the birthright was disqualified to the firstborn because of sin, unrighteousness, or unbelief, it passed always to the righteous seed, but Christ was the heir of all of heaven, the Son of God; none can be called an heir of the Father’s house but by Him. The same truth is regarding Abraham’s seed. It was not to Ishmael, the seed of the flesh, but to Isaac, who Scripture says was born by the promise of “the Spirit” (Gal. 4:29).
Yet even Isaac was born not by flesh, but by divine power like Israel. Isaac’s birth was just as truly connected to the Cornerstone as any other portion of the house. This is because “the seed of Abraham” is not the seed of the flesh, but the seed of the Spirit of Christ, the Son of God. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)
The “seed” of Abraham, the “firstborn” heir of promise, the true “Israel” giving identity to ancient and modern Israel is Christ. And without Him, there is no heir as a firstborn; there is no sonship; there is no victory over sin; nor can you be counted part of the seed of Abraham. But “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)
Notice what makes you a firstborn, a son, an heir? It is to belong to Christ; it is to receive His Spirit. For when you receive His Spirit, and are born as Isaac was, and as Jacob was when named Israel, by divine power, God testifies that you are His children. You are adopted through Christ into the divine family.
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:15-17) Joint-heirs with Christ, the firstborn of all creation! This experience of adoption is only possible when we partake of His Spirit, and our identity will become so blended with His, that we will become a revelation of Jesus Christ.
When describing the Israelites after the flesh, whom God delivered out of Egypt, he declares that this “adoption” was what the Israelites were committed with to belong to Him: “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; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
THE CORNERSTONE THE BUILDERS REJECTED
But Israel, after the flesh, would not walk in the Spirit of Christ. They would not meet Christ, the Cornerstone by whom their identity was established. “…But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15) By casting off Christ, they unchurched themselves. They crucified their identity as spiritual Israel, and became a mere shell of what they had formerly been.Some make the claim that spiritual Israel existed only after the cross; but the truth is that there is no other kind of Israel but spiritual Israel. No other kind of firstborn son but those connected to Christ the Son. Neither is there an victory but by the Son of God. This truth was made very clear by the Son of God in his dialogue with the religious leaders of Israel. “They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” (John 8:33-37)
In one sense, they were Abraham’s seed, like Ishmael was Abraham’s seed. But as Ishmael was born of flesh and not of faith in Abraham, so are these children of Israel in bondage to sin. They are children of the flesh only, but not children of God. But they were slaves and not made like the Son of God. Then Christ qualifies the children of Abraham:
“They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham…Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” (John 8:39-40)
But what saith the Scriptures regarding Israel’s rejection of Christ? “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Romans 9:6-8)
The faith of a Roman Gentile soldier had proven to be stronger than all of Israel. In this faith, he saw a son of Abraham in the Gentile, but a reason that Israel, who had the promise of the kingdom, should lose it if they do not prove true to their calling. “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:5-12)
It is only by faith that a man shall enter into the Kingdom of God. And not any faith, but “the faith of Jesus operating and working in the man; the faith of the Son of God is the faith of true Israel (Rev. 14:12, Gal. 2:20). This faith qualifies all to be Israel, whether he is a flesh and blood descent of Abraham, or a Gentile convert. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and “except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
If you are a child of Abraham, you will do the works of Abraham. And what were the works of Abraham? “Abraham believed God and He counted to him for righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6) Righteousness by faith. Abraham himself was a Gentile (Deut. 26:5) justified by faith. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7-9) Apart from faith, and apart from Christ, the fleshly seed of Israel is just that: flesh. But faith makes the Israel which is counted a son, and this Israel shall abide forever, because this Israel is built by, founded on, and empowered in Christ, the true Israel.
(For further reading on this subject, read Galatians 4:22-29 and Romans 2:17-29)