This is my fifth article on Israel in Scripture. These articles are set over against populist dispensationalism. The role of Israel in Scripture is one of dispensationalism’s biggest draws, and one of its largest errors. Let us continue our study of the matter.
Under the new covenant the distinction between Jew and Gentile ceases forever:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh . . . at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. (Eph 2:11–16)
Thus, “there is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for ye are all one in Christ” (Gal 3:28) and “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision” (Col 3:11; cp. Ro 10:12). Yet dispensationalists see the church as a temporary parenthesis in God’s plan. After the great tribulation a rebuilt Jewish temple and its animal sacrifices will supersede the church.
Many of the early church fathers — even those claimed as premillennialists by modern dispensationalists — understood the church as receiving Israel’s promises. Historic premillennialist Blomberg states: “when patristic writers do insist on the literal fulfillment of Old Testament promises, they also insist that the church takes part in this fulfillment, and so they make utterly no distinction between the Old Testament people of God and the New Testament people of God.”
The Th.M. thesis of Dallas Seminary-trained historian Alan Patrick Boyd states: “The majority of the writers/writings in this period [AD 70–165] completely identify Israel with the Church.” He specifically cites Papias, 1 Clement, 2 Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, the Didache, and Justin Martyr. Boyd notes that “in the case of Barnabas, . . . he has totally disassociated Israel from the precepts of the Old Testament. In fact he specifically designates the Church to be the heir of the covenantal promises made to Israel (4:6–7; 13:1–6; 14:4–5).” Elsewhere, he writes: “Papias applied much of the Old Testament to the Church.” Of Hermas he notes “the employment of the phraseology of late Judaism to make the Church the true Israel.” Justin Martyr, observes Boyd, “claims that the Church is the true Israelitic race, thereby blurring the distinction between Israel and the Church.”