Eschatology: The People of God

Below is a manuscript of my Sunday School lesson from November, 8, 2020. The lesson was on the people of God, specifically addressing the relationship between Israel and the Church.

Eschatology: The People of God

Crossroads Sunday School

Lesson #7

Introduction

Alright let’s take a break from the math lesson we received last week on Daniel 9 and the 70 weeks or 70 sevens or 70 cycles of seven years or 490 years. Remember that? That was fun.

Let’s do something a bit different and bit bigger picture this week. Last week we looked at the finer details of a few verses, this week we will consider the whole Bible. Specifically, we will look at how the Bible describes the people of God, in particular the relationship between Israel and the church. Much of the debates about eschatology have to do with Israel and whether or not God has a plan for national, ethnic Israel distinct from God’s plan for the church. I’m not going to get into all those issues, but the point is that how we understand the relationship between Israel and the church will affect how you think about eschatological issues and the fulfillment of God’s promises. But even more importantly, this issue matters because it affects how the OT applies to Christians today. Do the promises of God in the OT given to Israel belong to those who are in Christ? Or are they promises for an ethnic people that Christians cannot claim? These issues are important and I want you to put the Bible together correctly.

I have had to think through this issue a lot because my interest is in the field of biblical theology and how the storyline of Scripture hangs together.

So, this morning in 40 minutes, I just want to show you how we put the Bible together to describe God’s plan of redemption and how it relates to Israel, Jesus and the Church. Here we go!

Summary of the Bible’s Storyline

The apostle Peter wrote to Gentile Christians in 1 Peter 2:9-10:

1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV) — 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Peter describes these Christians as God’s people. Once they were not, now they are. To use Paul’s language, once they were separated from the commonwealth of Israel, but now they belong. Gentiles and Jews together are the people of God. Peter employs the same language God used to describe Israel in the Old Covenant, but now applies it now to the church, a community of Jews and Gentiles together. They are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession. These descriptions come from the book of Exodus and God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai. What God said to Israel from the thundering mountain God now says to the church. We are a royal priesthood.

So how can this be? Well let’s consider the Bible’s storyline.

We must remember that the Bible does not begin with Israel, the Bible begins with Adam. God’s purpose from the beginning is not a particular nation, it is humanity as a whole. God creates Adam and Eve in his own image and likeness.

The ancient Near Eastern context is important for understanding the meaning of image and likeness as the primary characteristics of humanity. To be made in God’s image meant Adam possessed a royal commission. He was to represent God and rule as God’s viceroy. He was to be the king of God’s kingdom. Bearing the image and likeness of God, Adam occupied a unique relationship to God among all the creatures. He was God’s viceroy, and he was God’s son. Adam related to God covenantally. As the son of God bearing the image of God, he would rule the world on God’s behalf. He would represent God’s rule to the world.

God gave his son Adam a very special dwelling place. He placed him in Eden to work and to keep the garden.

· “Work” and “keep: – language of the priesthood in the tabernacle (cf. Num 3:8)

· The Garden of Eden is the Bible’s first temple and Adam is the Bible’s first priest.

· The garden, Eden, and the outside world are three divisions reflecting the three divisions of the tabernacle. Outer court, holy place, and holy of holies.

· The rivers flowed from Eden to the outer world. Ezekiel would pick up on this imagery to describe the eschatological temple (Ezek 47).

· When banished to the East, God put a cherub with flaming sword to guard entrance back into the garden.

More could be said, but Adam is the Bible’s first king and priest. He possessed a royal priesthood. He was a covenant mediator standing between God and creation. He was planted on the mountain of Eden to bring God’s blessing to the world. And his commission was to be fruitful and multiply and work the garden and spread the image so that God’s dwelling place of the garden would push outward to cover the earth so that the presence of the Lord and the knowledge of the glory of the Lord would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Of course, Adam failed. He failed to protect the sanctuary of God. He was not a good priest. The unclean serpent entered in and deceived Adam’s bride. Adam gave into the temptation and broke God’s law. He was banished from God’s temple into exile where he would die separated from the presence of God.

Abraham

But God did not give up on his plan for humanity to exist in a father-son relationship with him and to rule the world as kings and priests. God calls Abraham in Genesis 12.

Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God still has a plan for humanity and he reveals it to Abraham. Abraham is in the biblical narrative a new Adam. Like Noah was a new Adam in the Genesis narrative, not Abraham picks up the mantle. God’s creation project to rule the world through human viceroys is still intact. Through Abraham God will:

· Multiply humanity (Echoes Adam’s commission to be fruitful and multiply)

· He will provide land for them to dwell in (Garden of Eden for Adam)

· God will bless Abraham and all the families of the earth (God blessed Adam and Eve)

· God will make Abraham’s offspring into a geo-political empire. They will be a nation, a kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood.

Israel

Well this brings us to Israel and God’s covenant with Israel, the offspring of Abraham.

When God led Israel out of Egypt, he brought them to the Mountain of Sinai. Sinai is the Lord’s mountain-temple reflective of Eden’s mountain, but we’ll save that for another day. At Sinai God enters into a covenant with his firstborn son, Israel. Remember, Israel has already been identified as God’s firstborn son in Exodus 4:22. How could they be the firstborn if Adam already occupied that role? Because the firstborn son is not a description of existence; it is a description of privilege, primogeniture, the one who will receive the promises. They are the recipients of the promises to Abraham and heir of Adam’s status as covenantal son.

Exodus 19 describes Israel’s encounter with God at Sinai. Verses 5 and 6 are the all-important verses.

Exodus 19:5–6 (ESV) — 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Here God’s covenant recaptures and develops God’s covenant with Adam. Israel will be God’s treasured possession. Similar to Malachi 3:17 and for other reasons, the language of treasured possession communicates sonship. God will relate to Israel and a father relates to a son. As a nation, the people will be a kingdom of priests. Through an exhaustive and exhausting analysis of the Hebrew phrase “kingdom of priests,” John Davies argues that it is best rendered as “royal priesthood.” Israel will possess a corporate royal priesthood. In other words, they embody God’s original design for Adam. Israel does not appear in a vacuum in the Biblical storyline. They are part of God’s purpose from creation. They now embody what it means to bear the image of God. They are God’s viceroy and the conduit that will bless the nations and establish God’s kingdom on earth. Like Adam in the garden, Israel is to be holy. They are to order their lives around the worship of Yahweh as he dwells with them in the tabernacle. Israel’s high priest, representing the corporate identity of the nation will dwell with God in the holy of holies. He wears a crown on his head and jewels on his vestments capturing Eden’s glory. He passes through the cherubim embroidered curtain to enter into the divine presence. He brings a sacrifice of blood for his own sins and the sins of the people. He is holy to the Lord and must not have any bodily defects because he is a reflection of the primal man Adam in the garden.

Through Israel God is bringing redemption. He leads them out of Egypt to dwell with him. He is bringing a royal priesthood back into the sanctuary to serve God as his own son. Exodus 15:17–18 nicely captures God’s purpose for liberating Israel in the Exodus.

Exodus 15:17–18 (ESV) — 17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. 18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

God’s will plant his Son Israel on his own mountain, like Eden. He will reign forever and ever from his mountain abode. God’s kingdom will come through this corporate Adam, called Israel.

David

We know from the biblical storyline that Israel would eventually have a monarchy. 1 Samuel describes the rise of Israel’s monarchy. Saul is established as king but he is not God’s man. He is attractive to the people, but he is not a man after God’s own heart—that quality belongs to David. David becomes the king of Israel and though he never occupies the priesthood, which belonged to the Levites, he nevertheless behaves like a priest in 2 Samuel 6. He wears the linen ephod, he offers offerings, blesses the people, and gives them gifts. David is very much like a priest-king, but not a priest of the Levitical order. He is much like a different priest-king, Melchizedek who blessed Abraham with bread and wine. There is more to say here, but we’ll save that for another day.

2 Samuel 7 describes God’s covenant with David. After God gives David rest from his enemies, David’s desires to build God a house. David wants to be a temple builder echoing Adam’s royal commission in the garden to build God’s temple by expanding Eden’s borders. But God will not let David build a house, instead God is going to build David a house. Not a physical location, but dynasty. God is going to give David descendants.

God’s promises to David will bring the promises of the Abrahamic covenant to fruition.

· God will give Israel a land (place to dwell) – 2 Samuel 7:10

· Seed promise carried forward through a dynasty (offspring echo in verse 12)

· “Great name” – recalls God’s promises to Abraham to make his name great

God also makes promises to David concerning the relationship God will have with David’s greater Son. God will relate to him as a father relates to a son. And David’s son will rule as a king forever (2 Samuel 7:12ff).

David’s response to God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7:19 is quite instructive. David to God saying this is the “Torah of humanity,” or the “charter for mankind.” In other words, through David God’s creation project for all humanity will be realized. A royal son of God will rule God’s kingdom bringing blessing to the nations in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Read the psalms and you find that David’s royal son would also be a priest. He would according to Psalm 2 rule from Zion, God’s holy hill. Upon his coronation, he is begotten as God’s son. In other words, God’s son, priest, and king will rule from God’s mountain. He will embody what it means to be made in God’s image as son, priest-king. He will rule God’s kingdom mediating blessing to the world—a new Adam indeed.

As the history of Israel unfolds, Israel’s kings are not the best of men. Israel’s kings rebel and lead the people to break God’s covenant. Their rebellion leads to their expulsion from God’s presence. Like Adam, they are cast out of the land into exile. The glory of the Lord has left the sanctuary and Israel is in the exile of death. In order to be brought out, God must redeem them like he did in the exodus. The prophets describe Israel’s return as a greater new exodus. When God delivers his people again, the Gentiles themselves will share in Israel’s blessing. They will stream to Yahweh. Egypt and Assyria will experience their own exodus and Israel will be named third (Isaiah 19). Ezekiel makes it clear that Israel’s return from exile will be like resurrection from the dead (Ezekiel 37).

Jesus

How are the glorious promises of God fulfilled? The New Testament opens by connecting Jesus directly to Abraham and David. Matthew’s genealogy tells us that Jesus is Abraham’s heir and the Son of David. He is the Messiah we have been waiting for. Luke even traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam himself. God’s purpose for Adam, and promises to Abraham and David are now coming to pass in Jesus Christ.

Read the first few chapters of Matthew and you find that Jesus relives Adam and Israel’s experience, but without their failures. He is a faithful Adam and new Israel. Indeed, Jesus is the obedient son that God’s covenant partners Adam and Israel failed to be.

· At his birth the nations, Magi, come streaming to Jesus to worship him (Matt 2)

· As a baby he is taken to Egypt so Herod can’t kill him, but Matthew lets us know that this was in fulfillment of Hosea: “out of Egypt I called my son.” Jesus recapitulates Israel’s existence.

· At his baptism, Jesus comes up out of the waters and the Spirit descends on him like a dove. The language recalls the waters of creation and the Spirit hovering over the deep before God creates the world. Jesus will bring a new creation. Jesus is anointed for ministry and the Father declares from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.”

· Like Adam Jesus is tempted by Satan but does not yield in submission (Matt 4).

· Like Israel, Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days instead of 40 years. He ate no food, but did not complain to God. Jesus fed on the word of God. He was pleased not by food pleasant to the eye or wicked appetites or the glory without the cross. Jesus would obey his Father about the tree even if the tree meant death.

· Like Moses Jesus ascends a mountain to deliver messianic Torah. However, in his kingdom there are no covenant curses. Only Blessings. See Matthew 5 and the beatitudes.

Eventually Jesus is led to the cross as the Passover lamb. He is Israel’s ultimate sacrifice and great high priest. And he is the true image of God in man representing not just Israel but all of humanity. As a priest, he makes atonement for sin, not just for Israel but for the world.

Jesus exercises dominion not initially from a lofty throne, but from a cross. Herein lies the great paradox. Jesus’s glory is the glory of the cross. He is a crucified king. At the cross, Jesus takes dominion over sin, Satan, and death. His crown is not the glitz and glamour of human gold, but a crown of thorns. Bleeding from his brow with thorns pressed deep, Jesus becomes a curse to undo Adam’s curse—thorns and thistles it will bear for you (Gen 3:18). Because of his cross-work Jesus will renew the earth when he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

Hanging on the tree, Jesus became the ultimate obedient Son, better than Adam. When Adam’s eyes were opened, he realized his nakedness and he was ashamed. God in his kindness made him garments of animal skin to cover his sin and shame. Jesus on the other hand bore our sins naked on a cross. He covered our shame with his own shed blood.

On the cross, Jesus experiences his own exile. His cry of dereliction is nothing we had seen before during his life and ministry. But now he is Adam outside of the garden and Israel outside of the land, but worse. Jesus is forsaken of God. He is in exile.

But Jesus’ death was vicarious. He bore the wrath not due him, but due to sinners. When he died, he made a way for people to get out of exile. He brought about a new Exodus. The temple curtain barring access to the Holy of holies was torn in two. The temple curtain with the embroidered cherubim. Jesus has opened a way back into the garden-paradise. Humanity can dwell with God once again.

Three days after his death, Jesus rose from the dead. Of course, Mary mistook him for the gardener in John’s gospel because Jesus is the new Adam. The resurrected Christ declared to his disciples that he had all authority in heaven and on earth. Much like Adam was made to take dominion over the first creation, Jesus is the new Adam that has dominion over heaven and earth. The apostle Paul said of the risen Christ:

Colossians 1:15 (ESV) — 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Understand that language from a biblical-theological perspective and within the storyline of Scripture. Jesus is the image of God and firstborn. He is the new Adam and faithful Israel ruling not from mount Eden or Mount Sinai, but mount Zion, installed on God’s holy hill.

Jesus is no created being. He is not God’s firstborn created offspring. No, he occupies the place of preeminence, inheritance, and supremacy. He is the heir of all things, and he is the faithful son. All of God’s purposes for salvation, and for the establishment of his kingdom are summed up in Christ and found in Christ alone. As the resurrected king, Jesus is the first Adam (man) of the new creation. And God is creating a new humanity in him. Where is this new humanity found? It is found in the church, consisting of Jew and Gentile being conformed to the image of Christ.

We must understand the climactic work of Christ and the progressive unfolding of God’s plan if we are going to understand the church. The problem with classic covenant theology is that it overemphasizes the unity between Israel and the Church, basically equating the two. The problem with dispensational theology is that it emphasizes disunity, separating Israel and the church entirely.

But a proper understanding of the storyline and framework of scripture keeps us from falling into either error. When we understand the nature of OT promise the fulfillment that is now in Christ, we understand the nature of the church. The church is not the equivalent of the geo-political nation of Israel. Neither is the church a plan B or a parenthesis in God’s one plan of redemption. Why is that? Because the Church is the body of Christ. The people of God are those who are untied to Messiah Jesus. In union with him, the new Adam and true Israel, they become God’s new humanity and true Israel. Thus, our very identity as Jew and Gentile is described in the language of Sinai:

1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV) — 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

How can Peter take language that specifically applied to Israel and now use it to describe Gentiles with no geo-political empire, no ethnic boundaries, no borders, and no circumcision? Well it’s because we belong to Messiah Jesus who has fulfilled all of God’s promises. In union with him we share in a royal priesthood that was intended for Adam and later picked up in Israel. Christ has restored us to Adam’s office as priest-kings. We are in covenant with God through Christ. We have not come to Sinai, but to Mount Zion. The OT patterns and structures have pointed us to the great fulfillment that is in Christ.

At the consummation, both Jew and Gentile will share in the last Adam’s dominion as God’s holy nation.

Revelation 1:5–6 (ESV) — 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:9–10 (ESV) — 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

We must understand the Bible’s big picture, its own internal structure, and metanarrative in order to understand the relationship between Adam, Israel, David, Jesus, and the Church. When we do, we can make sense out of the apostle’s understanding of the OT promises and the nature of their fulfillment.

The Israel of God

How do the apostles speak about the reality that salvation has gone out to the Gentiles? Paul spoke of the Gentiles salvation as the mystery. The mystery is that in Christ, Gentiles and Jews share in the same promises as the Jews:

Ephesians 3:1–6 (ESV) — 1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

God does not have separate programs for the Jew and Gentile because he has had one plan all along that has culminated in Christ. We are in the last days, the days of fulfillment and Christ is the climax of God’s revelation.

Thus, we are not waiting around for OT promises to be fulfilled in ethnic Israel. Instead we see that the promises of God are found in Christ and God is actually creating a new humanity in Christ.

Ephesians 2:11–19 (ESV) — 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Notice the massive ramifications of Christ’s cross-work. Gentiles were once alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise. But now in Christ Gentiles have been brought near. In other words, Jew and Gentile are fellow citizens and members of the same household of God. How can this be? Because Christ has broken down what used to divide. And in place of Israel’s old covenant worship, God has created one new Adam. See that in verse 15. Notice the finality and decisiveness of the work of Christ. Gentiles do not become Jews and Jews do not become Gentiles. No, Jews and Gentiles become a new humanity in Christ. A new man, Paul says in place of the two. No wonder Paul elsewhere says that to the Jews he became a Jew. Wasn’t Paul a Jew? Yes, but his fundamental identity was not Jewish, it was Christ in him.

Thus, the work of Christ is final, eschatological, and complete. No longer should Jew or Gentile look for the fulfillment of God’s promises in a future ethnic Israel. No, Christ is the Israel who has fulfilled those promises. Thus, what Paul says next in Ephesians 2 makes perfect sense. The eschatological temple has arrived and indeed is here:

Ephesians 2:20–22 (ESV) — 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Clearly, Ephesians 2 is consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere. The new humanity consisting of Jew and Gentile are the children of Abraham. God’s purpose to bless the nations through Abraham’s offspring is being realized in the church. Thus, Paul speaks of Gentiles as children of Abraham.

Galatians 3:7 (ESV) — 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

Galatians 3:26–29 (ESV) — 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

My argument thus far is perfectly consistent with Paul’s logic in Romans 9–11. In Romans 9, Paul turns his attention to Israel and asks if Israel has rejected Messiah Jesus and failed to obtain the promises, then has the Word of God failed? In other words, if the OT promises have not come to Israel, but instead have gone out primarily to the gentiles, then has God’s Word failed? It is incredible how Paul answers the question. He does not say, “Listen, of course the Word of God has not failed. Because there is a day coming in the future when the temple will be rebuilt, sacrifices will be reinstituted, Jerusalem will be where Jesus reigns and all God’s promises will finally come to Israel in their plot of land in the Middle East.” That would seem to solve the problem decisively. But Paul doesn’t say any of that. Instead, Paul helps us rightly understand Israel.

Romans 9:6–8 (ESV) — 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Paul is making a very clear point. If you think the promises of God are for all of ethnic Israel, then you are misreading the OT. Abraham’s children, and thus the recipient of the promises, are not children of the flesh but children of the promise. Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. There is an Israel within ethnic Israel. Who are they? They are for the children of the promise. They are Isaac not Ishmael; they are Jacob not Esau. They are those whom God elected who are counted as offspring. God’s promises (His Word) depends not human achievement, but on his sovereign purpose of election.

Of course, we should not be surprised. Paul has already prepared us for this kind of Israel within Israel idea back in Romans 2:

Romans 2:28–29 (ESV) — 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

God’s true Israel are his elect people who have been circumcised of heart and believe in Christ. Even when there was great apostasy in Israel and Elijah lamented his own life in despair, God told Elijah that he had kept 7,000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. God’s word never fails and indeed it hasn’t still. God’s purpose of election shall stand. He has chosen an Israel within Israel to be the recipients of the promises. This true Israel is defined by God’s call, God’s election, and God’s saving grace. The astounding mystery that Paul reveals through his own ministry, is that God’s call and saving purpose is not only for elect Jews but also for elect gentiles. These Jews and Gentiles together constitute the one people of God, the children of Abraham, the sons of promise, the true Israel. Paul can therefore take an OT passage from Hosea which was directed to the apostate Northern tribes of Israel and apply them to the church:

Romans 9:24–26 (ESV) — 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’

So, the answer is no. God has not rejected his people. Because even now God has kept a remnant who trust in messiah Jesus. And even Gentiles who belong to Messiah Jesus are numbered among the people of God and the Israel of God. They are children of Abraham and therefore children of promise.

What about Romans 11:25 where Paul says, “And in this manner, all Israel will be saved? What does he mean? Whether he means that all elect Israelites will be saved in Christ throughout history, or whether he means there will be a large ingathering of Jews at the end of time, both possibilities are consistent with what I have argued for here. God has one plan of redemption; one people belonging to one body. Gentiles were grafted into the olive tree while Jewish branches were broken off. But God can graft Jewish branches back in again. They all belong to the same tree, same people, same plan of redemption.

Applications

1) We must be careful that we don’t impose extra-biblical systems over the Bible that we must make the Bible fit into. God has given us a book with one story and one plan of redemption and one unified internal structure that must be allowed to stand on its own terms and its own framework. From Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Israel to Jesus, to the Church, to the consummation, God has had one plan unfolding progressively through a series of covenants culminating in Christ.

2) We must grasp this important truth of our identity as the church so that we recognize that while we are not the exact same as Old Covenant Israel as a geo-political empire and mixed community of believers and unbelievers, we are nevertheless part of God’s elect people. Our ancestry is Israel as the people of God. We are as Paul says, Jews inwardly, circumcised of the heart (Romans 2:28–29). We have a high priest. His name is Jesus. We have a king. He is the Christ. We have sacrifice, it is his cross. We have a temple, it is, as Ephesians 2 says, the body of Christ.

3) We should not be distracted by end-time prophecies that are looking to fox news and media websites about what is happening in the middle east. They are distractions from the gospel of our Lord Jesus and the work we are to be doing.

4) Reading the Bible rightly matters for your Christian discipleship and encouragement in the Scriptures. When the apostles instructed Christians, they repeatedly appealed to and applied the OT to them as Gentiles. Paul says all the promises of God find their yes and amen in Christ (2 Cor 2:10). Thus, when you read the OT promises, you can rightly appropriate them to yourself as one who belongs to Messiah Jesus. The promises are not for a future ethnic people, they are for the Israel of God, the one new man consisting of Jew and Gentile. You are Abraham’s offspring and heirs of the promises of God.

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