When we talk about the “Nation of Israel”, how many of us know the full extent of this nation? Who are its people? Even though we Christians all agree that Lord Jesus Christ is the Master of ALL nations, we have some trouble agreeing on who is actually a member of the Nation of Israel. So, let’s look at some Scripture and the words of the Church Fathers to get a bit more clarity on the topic.
The meaning of the word Israel is “Triumphant with God”. It was Jacob who received this name after wrestling with the angel as recorded in the Book of Genesis:
Genesis 32:28 – “Thy name shall not be called Jacob, but Israel: for if thou hast been strong against God, how much more shalt thou prevail against men?”
Now, as we progress in the Book of Genesis, we see the 12 sons of Israel who will found the 12 tribes of Israel in the flesh. These individuals settle in Egypt and come out during the Exodus into the Promised Land to have their very own, physical Nation of Israel. Ultimately, the Nation of Israel would receive its first and arguably its greatest King: David after much turmoil for the children of Israel. As King, David received promises from God regarding what the Nation of Israel would be. God’s covenant with David is recorded as follows:
2 Samuel 7:12-16 – “And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house to my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son: and if he commit any iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men. But my mercy I will not take away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before my face. And thy house shall be faithful, and thy kingdom for ever before thy face, and thy throne shall be firm forever.”
From this we can see that Solomon was not the answer that God had promised to David as the “seed after you” because Solomon’s kingdom did not last forever; and, Solomon’s house was not faithful to God. The only King after David to follow David who would rule over all of Israel, forever is Jesus Christ Himself.
Luke 1:31-33 – “Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!”
Jesus Christ was not to rule over Israelites of the flesh alone. He would rule Gentiles as well. Looking at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we can read the following:
1 Corinthians 12:13 – “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink.”
Looking back again at the Book of Genesis, we see two worlds. One of these worlds is of the Flesh of Man. And the other of these worlds is of the Spirit of God. The world of God is filled with commitments (covenants) to His faithful followers. God’s first covenant was with Abraham. Paul writes of how God’s covenant with Abraham came to fruition in a way to set apart the world of the flesh and the world of God:
Romans 9:3-8 – “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. “
Galatians 4:22-31 – “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.“
Paul is saying that we faithful followers of Christ are children of Abraham; we are the Nation of Israel. It is we whom been adopted into this family by the love of Jesus Christ. And Paul is not writing these passages without solid foundation in the truth. Here we see the remarks of Jesus Himself speaking to the Jews who not only doubted, but challenged His Lordship:
John 8:37-47 – “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
The Pharisees who challenged Christ would go on to craft the Jewish religion we know today. Their practices were founded upon this basis as they attacked and persecuted Christ. Their actions had been prophesied in the Old Testament:
Isaiah 29:13-14 – “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
These Pharisees would be responsible for the execution of the Sadducee leadership and rooting out and destruction of the Essenes, a monastic sect of the Sadducees. These Sadducees were the last of the Levites, commanded by Moses according to the Word of God, to serve as priests until Jesus would arrive to appoint new priests. These bloody acts were used by the Pharisees to secure control of a new religion based loosely upon the original religion of the Hebrews that had been passed to them through Mosaic Law. This new religion would have the following attributes:
- No Holy Sacrifices as God had commanded the Israelites to perform in the temple. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD as Christ had foretold. And where the Christians continued the Mosaic sacrifices in accordance with the teachings of Christ and the Temple of Christ, the Jews would cease sacrifices all together against Mosaic Law.
- No Levite priests would remain to lead the faithful of God as Moses had commanded. The Pharisees would have rabbis to teach the faith, but the Levites would not serve as priests.
- Persecution of God’s chosen people: The Christians, would be undertaken by the Pharisees and the followers of their modified Jewish faith. The Pharisees and their followers would aid the Romans in rooting out Christians and persecuting them. We must remember that this is where Saul a Pharisee, later to be renamed Paul, started out before Christ appeared to him.
- Incomplete Scriptural foundation based upon whatever texts the Pharisees could acquire and translate. The Sadducees were the keepers of the Scriptures. And the Christians were also keeping Scriptures. But the persecution of Christians prevented the Pharisees from assembling a complete, and correct version of the Septuagint.
- Vehement denial of the divine nature of Jesus Christ was preached by the new Jews. Their incomplete texts continue to promote the idea that Christ was not the Messiah whom God promised to save Israel. And this denial is extremely offensive to God which is why Jesus said what he said to the Pharisees and their followers in the Gospel of John 8. And, this denial would be codified by the new Jewish faith in the 18 Benedictions. The Seventh Benediction is actually a curse against the Nazarenes/Heretics, who were also know to the Romans as the schismatic Jews.
What does God think of such behavior? It doesn’t look good:
Hebrews 10:28-29 – “A man making void the law of Moses dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses: How much more, do you think he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace?”
So, the Nation of Israel is not of the flesh, but of God. And after his conversion, Paul would emphasize being a member of the body of Christ, the Nation of Israel, is dependent upon internal commitment to the promise of Christ:
Galatians 6:12-17 – “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. “
When we move out of the Scriptures alone and into the Church Fathers, we find even more of the rationale for the assertion that the Nation of Israel is in fact those who follow Jesus Christ according to the prophecies of God and the laws of God as taught to us by His Son Christ Jesus.
Justin Martyr, c. 100 – 165 AD, in his Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 117 (161 AD), wrote that only the sacrifices of the faithful would matter to God the Father. Basing his writings upon Malachi 1:10-12 , he wrote that those who denied Jesus Christ, also denied God Himself. Further, after Jesus Christ was crucified, the only sacrifices worthy of God would be those from His Son, Jesus Christ.
“Again in Isaiah, if you have ears to hear it, God, speaking of Christ in parable, calls Him Jacob and Israel. He speaks thus: ‘Jacob is my servant, I will uphold Him; Israel is my elect, I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any one hear His voice in the street: a bruised reed He shall not break, and smoking flax He shall not quench; but He shall bring forth judgment to truth: He shall shine, and shall not be broken till He have set judgment on the earth. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.’ As therefore from the one man Jacob, who was surnamed Israel, all your nation has been called Jacob and Israel; so we from Christ, who begot us unto God, like Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Joseph, and David, are called and are the true sons of God, and keep the commandments of Christ.”
Origen, 203-250 AD, wrote on Paul’s letters and what it means to be a member of the Nation of Israel:
Origen, De Principis, Book IV, Ch. 13 – “[W]e have observed that this also has been stated in the Epistle to the Romans, where the apostle adduces an instance from the third book of Kings, saying, I have left me seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal; which expression Paul understood as figuratively spoken of those who are called Israelites according to the election, in order to show that the advent of Christ had not only now been of advantage to the Gentiles, but that very many even of the race of Israel had been called to salvation.”
Origen, De Principiis, Book IV, Ch. 21 – “Do not, then, the corporeal Israelites refer their descent to the rulers of the people, and the rulers of the people to the patriarchs, and the patriarchs to Jacob, and those still higher up; while are not the spiritual Israelites, of whom the corporeal Israelites were the type, sprung from the families, and the families from the tribes, and the tribes from some one individual whose descent is not of a corporeal but of a better kind—he, too, being born of Isaac, and he of Abraham—all going back to Adam, whom the apostle declares to be Christ?
Lastly, we look at Augustine’s work in the City of God to define the extent of the Nation of Israel. Augustine contrasted the world of man and the world of God by referring to them as cities. These opposing cities set apart those who are of God’s eternal Nation of Israel and those who are of this corruptible earth only connected by the temporal flesh:
Augustine, City of God, Book 17, Ch 16 (426 AD) – “For Christ, having come to [the Israelites only in the flesh and not by faith, enemies also of this great King Himself], and been slain by them, has the more become the King of others, whom He did not see in the flesh. Whence our King Himself says through the prophecy of a certain psalm, You will deliver me from the contradictions of the people; You will make me head of the nations. A people whom I have not known has served me: in the hearing of the ear it has obeyed me. Therefore this people of the nations, which Christ did not know in His bodily presence, yet has believed in that Christ as announced to it; so that it might be said of it with good reason, In the hearing of the ear it has obeyed me, for faith is by hearing. This people, I say, added to those who are the true Israelites both by the flesh and by faith, is the city of God, which has brought forth Christ Himself according to the flesh, since He was in these Israelites only.”
Now that we’ve read through the Scriptures and the early Church Fathers, we can see clearly that the Nation of Israel after Christ, is comprised of the faithful members in the body of Christ Jesus and the Church that He founded.
Although we can condemn the failings of the Jewish teachings and the faith that directly attacks Christ and His importance to this world, we cannot and should never condemn any modern Jew as a human being. All of us are sinners. And all of us were created in the image of Jesus Christ. Our efforts as loving Christians must be expended with charity, temperance, patience, humility, and diligence. All humans upon this earth can be saved if they submit themselves to both our Heavenly Father, God in Heaven and His Son Lord Jesus Christ.
As we wrap up, let us remember our affiliation to our Lord the Jesus Christ, as citizens of the City of God, in the World of God. We faithful lovers of Christ are true Israelites, Triumphant with God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
Colossians 3:10-11 – “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
May God bless you all!