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National Israel Fulfilled in Christ
by Marcus Booker
An abiding blindspot in the Dispensationalist system arises from a disdain for any suggestion that national Israel is fulfilled in Christ. Indeed, their system hinges upon the foundational tenet that the church does not replace Israel; without this tenet, Dispensationalism collapses. Yet this notion is inconsistent with the reformation of all things in Christ. If Christ did not fulfill, replace, or swallow up national Israel, then maybe he also didn't replace the temple in his body. Maybe circumcision of the heart didn't replace that of the flesh. Maybe the entire old covenant still abides. An abiding blindspot in the Dispensationalist system arises from a disdain for any suggestion that national Israel is fulfilled in Christ. Indeed, their system hinges upon the foundational tenet that the church does not replace Israel; without this tenet, Dispensationalism collapses. Yet this notion is inconsistent with the reformation of all things in Christ. If Christ did not fulfill, replace, or swallow up national Israel, then maybe he also didn't replace the temple in his body. Maybe circumcision of the heart didn't replace that of the flesh. Maybe the entire old covenant still abides. Indeed, maybe the "ministration of righteousness" hasn't set aside the "ministration of condemnation." Maybe we are under law and not under grace. Maybe we are yet in our sins. The consequences of such a proposition, as is evident, completely undermines the good news. Indeed, it attempts to erect anew the partition between Jew and Gentile. What a frightening thought it is!
Is it no wonder that the Dispensationalist system also looks for the erection of another temple made with hands and therewith the reinstitution of animal sacrifices. Yet even that anticipation is not the end of the matter. They not only expect to see these things occur, they want to actually play a part in hastening it. They want to reinstitute the old economy!
Yet we know that Christ, by the power of his coming, brought these things to nought, fulfilling them all in himself. He destroyed the temple, the city, and the rebels. As Christ affirmed, all the righeous blood shed upon the earth fell upon that generation. Truly, God said, "cast out the slave woman and her son," and that he did. The covenant (which had been made void) and her seed (born for slavery) have been cut off.
Christ himself effected a new covenant that surpassed the glory of the old. Indeed, it exceeded the old to such an extent that although the law came in glory, it was of no glory with respect to the superior glory (as Paul says). Yet Dispensationalists encourage Jews to revert to the weak and worthless elemental things. They imagine that in so doing they will hasten a coming and judgment that has already occurred.
Indeed, contrary to the teachings of Dispensationalism, Christ fulfills Israel (as the following will show).
Matthew, by his allusions, intimates that in Jesus is a blessed nation. First, he applies Hosea's quote concerning Israel to Christ. In its original context, Hosea says, "When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." Israel was the unique and peculiar son of God. Yet Matthew, for his part, applies this peculiar sonship to Jesus. Indeed, in this narrative, a voice from heaven proclaims of Jesus, "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." God hereby says that this man Jesus is the "Israel of God" or the "son of God."
In addition, Matthew shows Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah's writing. He says, "the virgin will conceive and bear a son and they will call him Immanuel." Yet the original context of Isaiah from which Matthew draws this reference indicates that "Immanuel" is the restored nation of Israel. The virgin is specifically the virgin daughter of Zion. She gives birth to a nation that is blessed by God (As seen also in Psalm 87:5, Daniel 2:25, Gal 4:26, Rev 12). Indeed, the way of summarizing blessing in the Scriptures is to affirm the Lord's presence and say that God will be with us. As Psalm 107 says, "No man who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no man who utters lies shall continue in my presence." And Jeremiah 23 says of the impending outpouring of the covenant curses in his day: "therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city which I gave to you and your fathers." Indeed, God-with-you refers generically to God's blessing upon his people. Genesis 26 says, "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfil the oath which I swore to Abraham your father." Therefore "Immanuel" means blessing upon God's people Israel.
That the term "Immanuel" refers to the nation and the virgin to Zion is evident by comparison to another prophetic account in the end of Isaiah (ch 66). It says, "Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her sons." The virgin mother is Zion and her male child is "a nation" blessed by God--Immanuel. Yet Matthew, for his part, applies this same idea to Jesus. Indeed, Jesus himself is the fulfillment of the nation. He is the restored Israel, the hope of the resurrection as shown is Ezekiel 37.
Moreover, Matthew's account of Christ's 40-day temptation in the wilderness parallels Israel's 40-year experience in the wilderness. Yet in every way that Israel gave in, Christ stood firm. In Christ, the law was written upon the heart. Yet for Israel, it was written upon stone, for which reason they disobeyed it.
Son of Man:
Another way in which the Scriptures show Christ as national Israel is in the term "son of man." The expression itself, in the most general sense, means one born of a woman. Yet as the term applies to Jesus it has another significance altogether. Indeed, to relegate the term to this general sense would do violence to its use in the context of the gospel narratives. Psalm 80 speaks of the desolation of Israel because of the curse. The psalmist entreats the Lord to turn back his face toward Jacob. He says, "But let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, the son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself!" In this context the "man of thy right hand" and the "son of man" refer to Israel. Yet the gospels apply this term, "son of man," to Jesus. And he refers to himself in this way. Moreover, the gospels speak of Jesus as sitting at the right hand of the father. Thus, the apostles show that Jesus is this "man of thy right hand." He is the fulfillment of Israel. He is Israel in its restored condition.
The Church as Israel:
The church is also this Israel, for it is inseparable from Jesus as a body is inseparable from its head. Also, as the Scriptures show, the temple is fulfilled in both Christ proper (i.e. the head) and in the body (i.e. the church). These two are not mutually exclusive.
Peter (1 Pet 2:9) speaks of the church as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people." This language, exclusively descriptive of Israel, identifies the church as the holy nation. In writing Titus, Paul speaks of the purpose of Christ's sacrifice as being to purify for himself "a people for his possession." Also, Revelation speaks of the churches as a "kingdom, priests" to God. Furthermore, Paul calls the Galatians, "the Israel of God." Moreover, in writing the Philippians, he tells them that they are "the circumcision." In addition, he tells the Ephesians of their former condition, saying, "remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Yet he goes on to say, "you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
Indeed, Paul shows both a continuity and a discontinuity with Israel of old. He tells the Romans "not all Israel are Israel." Also, he demonstrates that only the faithful in Christ (from Israel in the flesh) abide in God. He affirms, in Rom 11, that the rest are cut off. Those who are cut off are no longer part of Israel; they are estranged from God (for as long as they reject Christ). Yet the faithful Gentiles, for their part, were being grafted into the olive tree.
In this account is a flip-flop. Unfaithful Israel becomes cut off; they become no different than the Gentiles. Yet the Gentiles, naturally wild branches, are grafted into the pre-cultivated tree and included among God's people. This flip-flop is much like that between Jacob and Esau. Paul and Hebrews employ these two figures as an illustration of how, covenantally, "the elder shall serve the younger." Also, this teaching accords with Christ's words that "the last shall be first and the first shall be last." Accordingly, Christ says, "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it" (Matt 21:43). His parables and other teachings constantly indicated the same.
And indeed, this teaching is the pith and marrow of the gospel. These are the words of our Lord and master. Do not cast them aside. I am convinced that in due time earnest Dispensationalists will investigate these matters and abandon the lies that they have inherited.