Who is Israel?

Throughout the NT, there are two Israels. There is the outward nation that remains in apostasy, and there is the righteous remnant according to the election of grace. Paul belonged to this remnant. It is the Israel within Israel, the Israel of God, never called a “new” Israel, but indeed distinguished as the “true” Israel. Paul speaks of “Israel after the flesh” (1Cor 10:18). This, of course, implies an “Israel after the Spirit.” This is what believing gentiles are grafted into to become part of the “one new man,” and citizens of the commonwealth of Israel, equal in covenant inheritance with all the elect of Israel, the true circumcision (Phil 3:3), a Jew inwardly though uncircumcised (Ro 2:26, 28-29; 4:12; Col 2:11), and so, to use Paul’s term in Galatians, reckoned as “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16).

Nevertheless, Israel in its apostasy also continues to be called Israel, and, as a corporate entity (not every individual, of course) remains the object of both special discipline and special election (the “double for the double;” compare Isa 40:2; 61:7 with Jer 16:18; 17:18; Zech 9:12). Israel is divinely regarded as a corporate national son of special election, and though presently prodigal, is promised ultimate return and blessing, since only then will the covenant oath be publicly and openly vindicated in the sight of all the nations. He has bound up His very Name and Word with the self-assigned ‘mission impossible’ of recovering this very people to covenant favor. “This is My covenant with THEM …”

Israel in this sense is the people of the long exile that has been condemned by its covenant failure and rejection of Messiah to endure an age long blindness and hardening of special suffering and exile among the nations. However, this is never forever, but only “until …” (Ps 110:1-3; Isa 26:20; 32:15; 62:1, 7; Jer 23:20; Jer 30:24; Hos 5:15 thru Hos 6:1-2; Mic 5:3-4; Eze 21:27; Dan 7:9, 11, 22, 25; 9:27; 11:36; 12:9, 13; Zeph 3:8; Mt 23:39; Lk 21:24; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:25; 2Thes 2:7; Rev 6:11). That “until” is invariably the great day of the Lord that ends a final tribulation of unparalleled severity. Israel, as a nation, is never promised deliverance until that time. After that, they are preserved forever as an ALL righteous nation in the Land free and eternally secure from further threat of exile or judgment (Isa 4:3; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 39:22, 28-29; Zeph 3:13 etc.) This is what Paul had in mind when he spoke about the time when “ALL Israel would be saved” (Ro 11:26). The time is always the day of the Lord when, after a time of unequaled trouble, a deeply beleaguered surviving remnant, brought to an end of their power (Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7) “will look upon Me whom they pierced …,” and go apart to mourn and weep (compare Zech 12:10: Mt 23:39; 24:30; Rev 1:7). It will be as Paul was arrested on the road to Damascus, and when Joseph revealed himself to his estranged brethren.

These are those whom Paul calls the “natural branches” (Ro 11:16-19, 21, 24). “In that day,” they too will be the “Israel of God,” and true body of Christ on earth, no less than gentiles today who, according to the revelation of the mystery, have been grafted in to the root and fatness of the covenant tree in unexpected advance of the final tribulation and day of the Lord. Though presently blinded, the nation, as a nation of broken off “JEWISH” branches, have an appointment with destiny. The election has never departed from the nation. His love and their election are “irrevocable” (Ro 11:29). The time is clear: It is “when the fullness of the gentiles has come in (Ro 11:25). Then will the Deliverer come out of Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob (the natural branches). Jesus spoke of this point in time as the “times of the gentiles,” and the end of Israel’s long captivity and Jerusalem’s subjection to being “trodden down of the gentiles” (compare Lk 21:24 with Rev 11:2). The time of the Deliverer’s return from Zion was a term used in the OT for the great day of the Lord (compare Isa 59:16-21 with 63:4-7). It is the time that Peter refers to in Acts 3:21 as the “restoration of all things …” In 2 Thes 2, Paul will identify the Day of the Lord with the time of the gathering of the saints and the destruction of the Antichrist (“man of sin”).

All throughout the OT, the redemption and deliverance of Israel (the “natural branches”) is placed at the day of the Lord, which is the climax of an unequaled time of trouble (Isa 66:8; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mic 5:3-4; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1-2). This is precisely where Jesus puts His return at the end of this trouble (Mt 24:21, 29; Rev 19:19-20), which He, together with Peter, will equate with the Day of the Lord spoken of by all the prophets since the world began (Mt 24:29 with Acts 2:20; 3:21).

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