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THE ISRAEL OF GOD

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  May 2, 2012 — 2 Comments

Dispensationalists recognize that Abraham has a “spiritual seed.” We see this in the New Scofield Reference Bible (NSRB, p. 1223 at Ro 9:6). But dispensationalists do not like the idea that since Abraham has a “spiritual seed,” (NRSB p. 1223), there may also be a spiritual Israel.

Nevertheless, Paul applies the name “Israel” to Christians: “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). The “and [Greek: kai]” preceding “Israel of God,” is probably epexegetical, which means that we should translate the passage: “mercy upon them, that is, upon the Israel of God.” Dispensationalists see Galatians 6:16 applying to Jewish converts to Christ, “who would not oppose the apostle’s glorious message of salvation.” But such is surely not the case, for the following reasons.

Galatians’ entire context opposes any claim to a special Jewish status or distinction: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26–28). In the new covenant Christ does away with all racial distinctions. Why would Paul hold out a special word for Jewish Christians (“the Israel of God”), when he states immediately beforehand that we must not boast at all, save in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14)? After all, “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal 6:15).

Paul explains this “new creation” in detail in Ephesians 2:10–22, where God merges Jew and Gentile into one body, the church:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Eph 2:13–16)

Dispensationalism demands two groups and repairs Paul’s broken down barrier by making of the one new man, two.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

2 responses to THE ISRAEL OF GOD

  1. Great article. The argument over two chosen people cannot hold up to the light of scriptures despite my dispensational brothers in Christ who believe that the current state of Israel is part of God’s plan. The Israel from above is from God. The current Israel in the desert is from man.

    • Romans 9:6 “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.”

      Just as Rahab became a child of God through belief, so too anyone regardless of ethnicity or nationality may as well. Yes, the church has not replaced Israel as long as we are not speaking of National Israel. True Israel is made up of believers from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Just as National Israel as well as Jerusalem have been over-shadowed and replaced (even divorced for unfaithfulness) by the Jerusalem that is from above. Jesus being the anti-type of ALL things.

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