Some people in the modern church understand that there is a distinct future for Israel in the economy of God. They hold out for a future for Jews–i.e., people linked by DNA to Jacob (aka, Israel), the son of Issac, the son of Abraham. They hold out for a future that is unique to Israel and the Jewish nation. Thy see a distinct emphasis in scripture for the land of Israel (and her people) in the economy of God. Another word for economy is dispensation, and this view of Abraham’s nationalized offspring (Israel) is called dispensationalism.
I consider this to be a replacement. It replaces Israel with Jesus in theology, and I will try to explain why I say that as we move along in this article. I first want to contrast modern definitions of Israel with an ancient one.
As common as dispensationalims is in many churches today, some noteworthy people in ancient Israel didn’t share that view of the Jewish nation.
By noteworthy people, I mean Paul and Peter. Paul, for example, said that a true Jew is one inwardly:
A Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. –Romans 2:29
How can this be? It can be because “Jew” is not that which answers to the DNA question (answering to “Who is your mother?”). “Jew” is not that which corresponds to DNA (also being denoted by a scarring of infant male genitalia–circumcision of the flesh).
For Paul, the consummate definition of “Israel” or “Jew” is ultimately about a right view of Jesus of Nazareth. That is, it has to do with faith in Christ (which is circumcision of the heart). The definition of Israel was very much on his mind, and it is in his writings we see the clarity emerge, giving him the ability to contrast what Israel was vs. what Israel means:
All Israel is not Israel. –Romans 9:6
The Dispensational vision for the future of Israel, is not a vision for the future of actual Israel. Their Israel is not Israel. They are not following Paul’s clues, nor his outright assertions.
Paul was born into the milieu to which he addressed himself. He descended from Jacob (a Jew according to the flesh), but he was born again into a new milieu–had faith in Christ (this is circumcision of the heart). Paul could make the definitive conclusion that a child of Abraham is one who sees Jesus like Abraham saw Him:
Abraham is the father of all who believe. –Romans 4:11
Jesus explains that it was Abraham who saw the day of Christ, and rejoiced:
Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad. –John 8:56
Faith sees Jesus, and seeing Jesus rightly is what it means to belong to the lineage of Abraham. Jesus is the point of the Scriptures (the future of Israel is not). Seeing Jesus correctly is the point of Israel. Israel is not the point of Israel. And that’s why Jesus said to men who claimed to be descendants from Abraham (they calling Abraham their father), that they were not actually that (they were blind), and rather were children of the Devil:
You belong to your father, the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. — John 8:44
The modern church must find answers in these words. Dispensationalism can here be defeated. We can derive a right view of Israel from a right view of Jesus, and align with Abraham. In this way, a better definition of Israel is one of the fruits that come from a right view of Jesus.
And it was no less a Jew than Paul–a Hebrew among Hebrews–who met Jesus and then penned definitions of the people of God that derive from seeing Christ. If the apostle Paul wanted to teach us that the people of God are the actual descendants from Jacob (children by blood), he could have said it. But he didn’t say that, for seeing Christ changed what he was accustomed to saying when he was uncircumcised of heart:
So it is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as offspring –Romans 9:8
Paul gave a definition of the people of God. It is not a puzzle left for dispensationalism to answer. We have our answer. And we get it from a Jew (not a Gentile pastor in a modern church–by Gentile, I mean a person not a Jew by blood descent from Jacob).
Paul was a Jew according to the flesh, living at the stage of history when the definition of Israel had met Jesus, the Lord of the Holy Lexicon (where all definitions find their definition, and all words fiend their meaning). We need not turn to Gentile pastors to read their dispensational dictionaries. We may go back to the earliest sources, and learn from actual Jews the meanings of the terms so important to us (so important to Christ).
And it was another Jew, Peter, who told us that it is not the flesh that makes up God’s Holy Nation. Peter directs us in the same way as Paul and Christ. The definition of God’s nation is answered definitively by him in one unambiguous sentence:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. — 1 Peter 2:9
A man descended from Jacob said this. Peter said it. We don’t have to get our theology about Israel from modern Gentile theologians. We can go straight to actual descendants of Jacob, and find out that they don’t endorse the modern false misinformation.
And notice what Peter did not say: He did not say Jacob’s children are the Holy Nation. This would be the exact place he could have said it if he was trying to teach the theology of Dispensationalism.
In the place of defining the true Jew and true Holy Nation, Peter could have said, “But don’t misunderstand me: Jesus taught us that the physical blood line will finally be saved–they being the final Israel of God.” Peter didn’t do that.
Where Peter would need to be most clear (if he meant to be taken opposite of his own understanding), was right where he was discussing the subject at hand. But he didn’t give any answer to make us think like the dispeinsationalists. Peter saw Israel in the light of Christ, not in the light of dispensationalims.
Peter and Paul followed Jesus.
It was Paul, when he described the fulfillment of the OT prophesy about the coming back of Israel from banishment (Hosea 1:10), who said that it is those who have faith in Jesus (a population of people also from the Gentiles) who constitute the fulfillment of the Hosea prophesy. Here is the prophesy as given by Hosea:
Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ –Hosea 1:10
Paul takes this Hosea passage, and sees in Gentiles, in their love for Jesus, that this prophesy has found its end:
What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the vessels of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory— 24 including us, whom He has called not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles? 25 As He says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘My People’ who are not My people, and I will call her ‘My Beloved’ who is not My beloved –Romans 9:23-25
Every Gentile who loves Jesus, is a soul who was once not one of God’s people, now a citizen of the Holy Jerusalem that is above. It means that we who are circumcised of heart belong to the heavenly Jerusalem–that is our city. This is not metaphorical, it is metaphysical (it is real). It is not a simile, it is a description of reality. The Jerusalem Paul speaks of this way is not fake, but only temporarily hidden:
But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. –Gal 4:26
We lovers of Christ really are citizens of the place he speaks of. The Jerusalem that is ours is that capital of the Holy Nation–that realm of citizens circumcised of heart. The realm is not like the old one, marked out with its food laws and physical rites:
Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to myriads of angels –Hebrews 12:22
We Christians belong to Jesus. Together, with all believers, we are the Holy Nation. We are Jews. We belong to Jerusalem. Abraham is our father (for he loved Christ). Every other notion of Israel, of Abraham and of Jerusalem is a lie, and a fake, and derives from that diabolic Father of Lies who Jesus identified as the Devil. We do what Abraham did: We see Jesus and love Him:
“Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did.” –John 8:39
Dispensationalism aligns with the false Jews of John 8 who misrepresented the identity as Jewishness. The Jews of John 8 did not rightly name who they were, nor which group they actually belonged to. Failure on this point, is the forcing of Biblical data into a false view of Israel. That is, it is a failure to be Biblical (a failure to be properly Christological).
Why would someone do this? They would do it if Jesus is the lesser luminary to them, and if Israel is their replacement. Dispensationalism is replacement theology. It replaces Jesus with Israel.
Why all this? Why does it matter? What is at stake? There is a kind of warfare being waged. It is a battle for a right view of Jesus. Dispensationalism gives to Israel that which belongs to Jesus. They are combatants in a warn (no matter how sincerely they falsely fight). Dispensationalism puts Israel in the seat of Christ. You’ll notice them doing it as their zeal for Israel is definitive of their zeal. They have championed a misplaced emphasis. They have done so at the cost of Jesus.