Pastor David B. Curtis

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Who Is Israel?

Selected Scriptures

Delivered 04/21/2013

In our time this morning we are going to attempt to understand what the Scriptures mean by the term "Israel." There is a great disagreement within Churcheanity as to who "Israel" is. Does this refer to the nation Israel or to the Church of Yeshua the Christ? How you answer this question is very important. If you are going to understand the Bible and its promises, you must understand who "Israel" is.

I also believe that there is a connection between the church's view of Israel and terrorism. Because of Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism, MOST American Christians believe that we have a biblical mandate to stand with and protect the nation Israel. This view causes the Arabs to hate us.

I believe that the "true Israel" is the Israel of faith, not birth; Israel is spiritual, not natural. This view has been called "replacement theology"--it is said that the Church replaced Israel. But a much better term would be "fulfillment theology"--the promises of God made to Old Covenant Israel are "fulfilled" in the Church of Yeshua the Christ, which is true Israel. Covenant, not race, has always been the defining mark of the true Israel.

This view of "fulfillment theology" presents a major problem for the school of theology called "Dispensationalism." I would guess that most of you have been schooled in Dispensationalism as I was. And most of you at one time approached and interpreted the Bible Dispensationally.

What is Dispensationalism? The school of theology called "Dispensationalism" came into being during the 19th century, about 170 years ago. So, as a theology it is relatively new. Of all the things which Dispensationalism teaches, the fundamental teaching of the system is that there is a distinction between Israel and the Church. According to Dispensationalism, God has two differing peoples, who each respectively have differing covenant promises, different destinies, and different purposes. Membership in Israel is by natural birth. One enters the Church by supernatural birth. Dispensationalists view Israel and the Church as having distinct eternal destinies. Israel will receive an eternal earthly kingdom, and the Church an eternal heavenly Kingdom. Irrespective of anything else that may be found in the system, if one rejects the Israel/Church distinction, one ceases to be a Dispensationalist.

Darby, the father of Dispensationalism, stated the distinction in the clearest of terms, "The Jewish nation is never to enter the Church." These same scholars view Pentecost as the birth of the Church. Who made up the new church at Pentecost? It was all Jews. Ryrie considers this the most important Dispensational distinction and approves the statement: "The basic premise of Dispensationalism is the two purposes of God expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction throughout eternity."

I think that I can dismantle this Dispensational view in sixty seconds:

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, Jeremiah 31:31 NASB

What is promised here? A New Covenant. Who is this New Covenant promised to? Israel! Anyone disagree with that? Good. Then let me ask you this: "What covenant is the Church under?" Writing to the Church that was in Corinth, Paul said:

who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 NASB

The New Covenant is particularly problematic for the Dispensationalist, as Jeremiah 31 is undeniably addressed to Israel. The New Covenant is the very heart of the Gospel, yet, if the Church is fulfilling the promise given to Israel under the New Covenant, Dispensationalism is dead.

I believe that the Bible teaches the essential continuity of Israel and the Church. The elect of all the ages are seen as one people--true Israel, with one Savior, one destiny.

I want to expand on this idea of the Church being the true Israel using typology. One of the most fascinating areas of Bible study is that of typology--the study of Scripture "types." What exactly do we mean by a type? Theologically speaking, a type may be defined as "a figure or ensample of something future and more or less prophetic, called the 'Antitype'" (E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, p. 768).

Wick Broomall has a concise statement that is helpful: "A type is a shadow cast on the pages of Old Testament history by a truth whose full embodiment or antitype is found in the New Testament revelation" (Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 533).

There are several words used in the Greek New Testament to denote what we have just defined as a type. First, there is the term tupos (the basis of our English word "type"). Paul uses this is Romans 5:14 where he declares that Adam "is a type [tupos] of Him who was to come," referring to Christ.

Second, there is the word skia, rendered "shadow":

Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- Colossians 2:16 NASB

What is Paul referring to here? The Mosaic Covenant. Now watch the next verse:

things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:17 NASB

"To come" is from the Greek word mello, which means: "to be about to." So, at the time of Paul's writing of Colossians, the Mosaic system was about to become a shadow. The realities were "about to" come (cf. Heb. 8:5; 10:1).

Third, there is the term hupodeigma, translated "copy," and used in conjunction with "shadow" in Hebrews 8:5, referring to the temple (cf. Heb. 9:23).

Fourth, the Greek word parabole (compare our English "parable") is found in Hebrews 9:9, where the tabernacle is "a symbol for the present time" (cf. Heb. 11:19).

Finally, there is the use of antitupon, rendered "copy" (NASV) in Hebrews 9:24, and "corresponding" (NASV) in 1 Peter 3:21. This word, as used in the New Testament, denotes: "that which corresponds to" the type; it is the reality which fulfills the prophetic picture.

So we have a type and an anti-type. The type is the picture, the anti-type is the reality. A type is a real, exalted happening in history, which was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things which He purposed to bring to fruition in Christ. Let me give you a few examples that I'm sure you are familiar with:

And the people spoke against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food." Numbers 21:5 NASB

What happens next:

And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. Numbers 21:6-7 NASB

Why was God killing the Israelites? Complaining! We really are Israel, aren't we?

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live." 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. Numbers 21:8-9 NASB

The brazen serpent as a means of salvation for the Israelites was a remarkable type of Christ as a means of our salvation through Him:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; John 3:14 NASB

Yeshua did not here merely find an apt illustration of His means of saving men by dying on the cross; it was a remarkable divinely ordained type of salvation from death and the punishment for sin by a God-appointed means. What did the Israelites have to do to be saved from the snake bite? Join the church, pray a prayer, get baptized, repent of all wrong doing or live a holy life? No! All they had to do was to look to that serpent and they lived. So also, we look to the Lord Yeshua the Christ in faith and we live. This type very beautifully set forth salvation through Christ by faith alone.

So the serpent is the "type" and Christ is the "anti-type." Let me ask you this, "Is the Church saved by Christ?" Of course! But the type was given to Israel. Yet we see its fulfillment in the Church. So in typology we see the unity of the Scriptures.

William G. Moorehead writes this concerning types:

A type is a draft or sketch of some well-defined feature of redemption, and therefore it must in some distinct way resemble its antitype, i.e. Aaron as high priest is a rough figure of Christ the Great High Priest, and the Day of Atonement in Israel (Leviticus 16) must be a true picture of the atoning work of Christ... A type always prefigures something future. A Scriptural type and predictive prophecy are in substance the same, differing only in form... A type always looks to the future; an element of prediction must necessarily be in it. ("The Typology of Scripture" by William G. Moorehead is reproduced from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Chicago: Howard-Severance Co., 1930), vol. 5, pp. 3029-3030).

A type is an acted out prophecy. It is as truly prophetic as is a spoken prophecy, and had equal value with spoken prophecy in directing the faith of the Israelites to the coming salvation.

For example, in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is given a spoken prophecy vividly portraying the vicarious suffering of Christ. At the altar in the tabernacle the same great truths were daily predicted both morning and evening in the harmless, innocent lamb, its substitutionary death for another, and the sprinkling of its blood before Yahweh.

The sacrificial system of Israel was considered by New Testament writers to be typical of the perfect and final sacrifice of Christ. When John the Baptist saw Yeshua coming toward him he said:

The next day he saw Yeshua coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NASB

The expression, "the Lamb of God," to which John referred has a rich background in the Tanakh. The blood of every innocent victim and the faith of every Old Covenant offerer were now made efficacious through the offering up of the perfect Lamb of God for the sin of the world. Without His coming, the Old Covenant sacrifices would have been meaningless and worthless.

Let me give you a couple interpretative principles that we need to keep in mind as we study types:

1. It must be recognized that types are grounded in real history; the people, places, events, etc. were deliberately chosen by God to prepare for the coming of the Christian system.

2. There is a graduation from type to antitype: of the lesser to the greater; from the material to the spiritual; the earthly to the heavenly:

So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45 NASB

Here Paul is talking about Adam who he calls a type:

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Romans 5:14 NASB

Then speaking of Adam and Christ Paul says:

However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 1 Corinthians 15:46 NASB

So the type is natural, earthly, material; and the anti-type is spiritual, heavenly and the fulfillment or reality. Now with that being said, what I want you to understand concerning our subject of Israel is that:

National, ethnic Israel was a type. Understanding this is crucial. Dispensationalism misses this very important point and thus tries to keep separate the type and anti-type. The people of Israel themselves were a type. The nation itself, as God's special people, was typical of the true people of Yahweh. It was "physical Israel," but Paul describes Christian believers as "spiritual Israel." National Israel was divinely ordained to resemble spiritual Israel. The physical seed of Abraham typified the spiritual seed of Abraham, and some of the promises made to his seed were not fulfilled at all to his physical seed, but, as Paul teaches in Romans 4, only to his spiritual children. Physical Israel as a type of spiritual Israel is constantly set forth by Paul in the Roman and Galatian letters.

And understanding that the nation of Israel was a type, we won't be surprised to find that Israel's sacrifices, priesthood, temple, and land also had typical significance.

Dispensationalism puts great emphasis on a rebuilt temple and priesthood because they fail to see these as types. Physical Israel was a type and so was the tabernacle. In Hebrews 8:2 it says:

a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. Hebrews 8:2 NASB

Then speaking of that tabernacle he says:

who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "SEE," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN." Hebrews 8:5 NASB

The tabernacle was a type. What is the anti-type? Yeshua is the anti-type:

Yeshua answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2:19 NASB

Yeshua replaces the temple itself. Yeshua is the anti-type of the temple. The temple represented the presence of God among His children in the early days, so Christ is described in:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NASB

The word "dwelt" here is skenoo, which means: "a tent." Yeshua came and pitched His tent or tabernacled among us. Notice what Peter says to the Jewish leaders:

let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Yeshua the Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-- by this name this man stands here before you in good health. Acts 4:10 NASB

Now notice what Peter says of Christ:

"He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone. Acts 4:11 NASB

Yeshua is the cornerstone upon which the spiritual house of Yahweh was built.

"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 NASB

If you don't build on the cornerstone, Yeshua, you don't have salvation. Who's Savior was Yeshua?

"From the offspring of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Yeshua, Acts 13:23 NASB

Yeshua is Israel's Savior! So if the Church and Israel are different, who is the Church's Savior? Israel's Savior is our Savior, because we are Israel.

How did Israel move from a type to an anti-type? Good question. Israel went from type to anti-type by means of a second exodus. At the transfiguration Luke wrote:

who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:31 NASB

The word for "departure" is the Greek word exodos. There was another exodus that Yeshua was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. This was another forty year journey, not a physical one, but a spiritual one. When did this second exodus begin? To answer that we need to know when did the first exodus begin? Passover! You'll remember that the first Passover was observed when Israel was about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt.

"Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. Exodus 12:3 NASB

Who is the anti-type of the lamb? It is the Lord Yeshua the Christ. Passover was a type, or picture of something much greater--it pictured the redemption of God's elect through the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God, the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

The typical significance of the Passover is very clear in the New Testament writings. Probably no Mosaic institution is a more perfect type than this. The first Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, beginning Israel's exodus out of Egypt. Then almost two thousand years later, Yeshua the Christ was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, beginning the second exodus.

So the first and second exodus, the type and the anti-type, both began on Passover. Israel's journey from Egypt to Canaan, the exodus, was a type.

Who led the exodus of Israel out of Egypt? Moses! Moses is a type and Yeshua is the anti-type. Moses was the first savior of Israel, whom God had empowered to redeem Israel, this was a prefiguring of the true Redeemer, who by His perfect sacrifice redeemed Israel from sin death.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Moses stands in relation to the First Covenant as Christ does to the Second. One is inferior and preparatory, the other is spiritual and final. In these ways, then, the life of Moses points beyond itself to the life and work of Christ.

Like Moses, Yeshua will grow up in Egypt. Like the story of Moses, Herod slaughters the male children (2:16-18). Like Moses' exile to Midian, Yeshua's exile to Egypt will end with the death of Herod/Pharaoh. And then we have a New Exodus foretold: "Out of Egypt I have called My son." Yeshua also goes up on a mountain, like Moses, and gives the New Torah--the "Sermon on the Mount." The transfiguration experience is pregnant with exodus symbolism. Just as Moses went up into the mountain with three companions, so does Yeshua. Moses' face shone with the glory of God; the face of Yeshua "Shone like the sun," Matthew tells us. Moses and Elijah appear, and the voice from the cloud says, "This is my beloved Son; listen to Him" is most likely echoing the words of:

"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. Deuteronomy 18:15 NASB

From the mount our Lord descends, as did Moses, to find confusion on the plain:

And He answered them and said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" Mark 9:19 NASB

Matthew and Luke add the word "perverse," which shows that they saw a parallel between the generation of our Lord's day and the generation of the first exodus.

In the book of Acts Stephen begins his sermon with a review of Israel's history. In this the exodus receives the major part of his attention. There is a clear parallel between Moses, the redeemer, rejected by his people who worshiped idols; and Yeshua, the Redeemer, rejected by His people who used the Jewish cultus in an idolatrous way. So the nation Israel was a type, and their leader Moses was a type.

What was the first Mosaic institution given? It was the Sabbath: Not one text in all the Bible enjoins the observance of the Sabbath upon any man before the exodus, nor since Pentecost. Its first recorded observance was at the time of the giving of the manna (Exodus 16:23). Its purpose was for a memorial or a sign (Exodus 31:17) of their deliverance from Egypt, and that they were the special people of God (Deut. 5:15; Ezek. 20:12). It was observed in commemoration of the beginning of their nation at the exodus, as Americans observe the Fourth of July for a similar purpose. It was a weekly reminder of their peculiar relation to God. It was observed by a complete cessation from work (Exod. 20:10; 35:2; Lev. 23:3). The law was very strict in its requirement of Sabbath observance. No fire was to be kindled and no cooking done. The violation of the Sabbath was punishable by death.

As we have already seen in Colossians 2:16-17, the Sabbath was a type or shadow. What is the anti-type of the Sabbath? Yeshua! The Sabbath was a type or shadow of a body or substance, which we obtain in Christ. The main idea of the Sabbath was physical rest. That physical rest, therefore, must have been typical of some higher rest to be found by the Christian. The strict observance of the Sabbath, which God required of the Jews, like the requirement of strict adherence to the divine pattern for the tabernacle, was because it was to typify a perfect spirit-rest of the Christian.

Centuries before Moses, the patriarch Jacob predicted Christ's coming under the name "Shiloh," or Rest-giver (Gen. 49:10). Yeshua Himself is the Rest-giver, and the rest He gives from the burden and bondage of sin is the Christian's Sabbath foreshadowed by that ancient Mosaic rest-day. It was predicted that "His rest shall be glorious."

That this is the true Sabbath-keeping is argued by the inspired writer to the Hebrews (4:3-11). He who ceases from his own works to obtain righteousness and trusts in the mercy of God for pardon of sin has entered the true Sabbath. The Sabbath, like the other ceremonial requirements of the Law of Moses, is abolished (Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 8:6- 13), but the blessed spirit-rest it prefigured remains for the people of God.

The writer to the Hebrews says that Joshua, who led the Israelites into Canaan, failed to give them the promised rest (4:8). He spiritualizes that promised rest and locates it, not in literal Canaan, but in Christ, of which Canaan was a type. Here is positive proof that God attached typical meaning to that journey of the Israelites.

What event ended the first exodus period? The destruction of Jericho. Jericho stood at the entrance to the promised land. It was a fortified city that represented a serious challenge to Israel's claim to the land. Its fall telegraphed a message to all the world that Yahweh was the Lord of this people.

What marked the end of the second exodus? The destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus is the Greek transliteration of Christ's Hebrew name, which is rendered in English as Joshua. Old Covenant Judaism was a major problem for those early believers. Nothing represented the old system better than the temple. Here was where the presence of God dwelt. His presence assured them they were His people. But forty years after the cross, in A.D. 70, believers fled the city of Jerusalem as the walls fell and the city was destroyed and burned.

Similar to the collapse of the walls in Jericho, the fall of Jerusalem's walls symbolized the entrance of the redeemed remnant into Christ's everlasting Kingdom. The believers were vindicated and revealed as "the sons of God" while judgment fell on the Jewish system which had rejected God as king.

Believers now reside in the New Jerusalem, which is the New Covenant:

This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Galatians 4:24 NASB

Paul is talking about the two covenants, the old and the new:

Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. Galatians 4:25 NASB

Present Jerusalem (of Paul's day) represents the Old Covenant:

But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. Galatians 4:26 NASB

What exactly is this "Jerusalem above" who is our mother? You must keep in mind that the comparison here is between two covenants. Earthly Jerusalem represents the Old Covenant, so this heavenly Jerusalem represents the New Covenant.

The events of Jericho offered a graphic image and actual prophecy of events at the close of the Jewish age, forty years after Pentecost, when there were seven angels with seven trumpets of doom and judgment:

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God; and seven trumpets were given to them. Revelation 8:2 NASB

At that time the great and powerful city of Babylon (Jerusalem) suddenly fell:

standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' Revelation 18:10 NASB

As in Joshua, the destruction of the city came at the sound of the trumpets, so at the end of the Jewish age, the destruction of Jerusalem came as Yeshua sounded the trumpet.

This exodus typology is seen throughout the New Testament. We see it very clearly in the book of Acts. Speaking of Moses, Stephen says:

"This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you. Acts 7:38 NASB

The word for "congregation" here is the Greek word ekklesia. This word is taken over and used of the church:

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church [ekklesia] of God which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28 NASB

This was the flock, which He purchased with His own blood. They were the redeemed of the Lord, they were Israel. Notice what Paul teaches in Romans:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; Romans 9:6 NASB

We have here physical Israel, those who descended from Jacob, and then we have true Israel. So we have physical Israel and true Israel.

Paul is saying that God's promises haven't failed, because God never promised unconditionally to each offspring of Abraham covenant blessings. God never intended that all of the nation Israel would be redeemed. Within national Israel is "True Israel" or "spiritual Israel." So one could be an Israelite without truly being an Israelite. The promises were to "true Israel," not national Israel.

So who is true Israel? Is it the Church? Yes, but what is the Church? It is the Body of Christ! And what I want us to understand is that Yeshua is the true Israel! It is in Him, and Him alone, that the promises of God are fulfilled. We could say, "They are not all 'in Christ' who are physical descendants of Jacob."

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17 NASB

Yeshua is the anti-type of the Mosaic institution, He fulfills the Law, every bit of it.

Notice what Peter says to the church, first century believers:

for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 1 Peter 2:10 NASB

This is a quotation from Hosea of a promise that God made to Israel (Hosea 1) that she would be called out of the nations and brought back to Messiah. Peter is writing to Gentiles, who have become Christians, and he calls them a chosen (race) generatiofon. He says to them, "You once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD." This is a promise that God made to the house of Israel through Hosea, which is fulfilled in the Church. The Church is Israel!

So Israel and the Church are not separate peoples. National Israel was a type and the Church, the true Israel, is the anti-type. As we study the New Testament we see that all the promises that God made to His covenant people are fulfilled in the Church, the true Israel.

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