ANSWER: Confusion on this subject may result from the prevalent confusion of Israel with the Church and perhaps by the use of the extra-biblical term “biblical Israel.” The confusion arises from spiritualizing the unfulfilled prophecies about Israel, and then wrongly applying them to the Church. The correct interpretation is this: The unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies about Israel are true only for the nation of Israel and will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ, the Messiah. Insight into the question can be obtained by looking at the unconditional promises God made to Abraham. He said: “I will make you a great nation ... In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3NASB). He also said: “I will give to you and your descendants after you ... all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8). God did make Abraham’s natural descendants into a great nation, the nation of Israel, which is now back in the land God promised to them for an everlasting possession. We, the Church, have no such promise in the land! However, God did send Christ, Abraham’s descendant (Mt. 1:1; Lk. 3:34), through whom all nations, including Israel, are being blessed. The Church is made up of people both from Israel and from the nations. Christians should rejoice that we can thus see God keeping His unconditional promises and know that they are eternal.
Today Christ’s intention is not to establish His earthly kingdom – to “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6) – but to establish the Church and endow it with the power needed for its members to be His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Restoring the kingdom to Israel – as the prophets foretold and as the disciples expected at Christ’s coming – will most certainly occur, but not until after His second coming. He had to die and be resurrected at the first coming or there could be no blessing for anyone.
What then is the implication for the Church? Nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that we have a responsibility toward Israel that is any different from that toward other nations. Our direct responsibility is not to make this a better world, but to “make disciples of all the nations” including Israel (Mt. 28:19). There is no doubt that His disciples, being “the salt of the earth” (Mt. 5:13), will make the world a better place, but indirectly, not by direct action.
But God also makes conditional promises! In Exodus 19:5, at the beginning of the nation of Israel’s history, He says, “If you will indeed obey my voice … then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples.” God has spoken to the Hebrews in His Son (Heb. 1:2), but the nation would not hear and thus failed to meet the condition. As a result, the Church now occupies the position of being God’s possession among the peoples (Ti. 2:13-14). And “a partial hardening has happened to Israel (some Jews are believers) until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25). In other words, “God has not rejected His people” – the nation of Israel (Rom. 11:1) – and it will again become His possession among the nations.
Israel’s hope in Canaan is not the Church’s hope. Its hope is in heaven and its assignment is that of making disciples whose lives clearly reveal the effects of Christ’s power!
Answered by Alan H. Crosby
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org