Is There a Spiritual Israel?
By Gray Clark
NO! NO! NO! Spiritual Israel is a teaching void of biblical truth. It is a doctrine designed to expand the Bible beyond its lawful teaching to include all peoples of the world in what belongs exclusively to Israel. What is restricted to Israel alone are the covenants, the law, the promises, the coming kingdom, etc. (Romans 9:3-8). Israelites become spiritually alert by a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ being saved; but they first were physical Israelites. It is a false understanding to believe that non-Israelites, by a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, can become spiritual Israelites, thus gaining the same benefits as physical Israel. It is impossible. They remain non-Israelites. Also, those who believe in spiritual Israel see this as another name for the church, making it a diversified church, contrary to biblical teaching on separation. Spiritual Israel means a multi-racial church that includes non-Israelites and Israelites. Non-Israelites who assume that being a believer in Christ makes them spiritual Israelites are wrong. It simply is not so. The Bible does not teach this. Rather, it teaches that the church is those of Israel who are the elect. Remember this: race first; grace second. Grace does not trump race or change it. The bottom line is that non-Israelites, through profession of faith in Jesus Christ, cannot gain what God gave Israelites alone. This is the hard truth.
Of course, those Israelites who are in the election can be called spiritual Israelites and be on solid ground. Such an Israelite is a “new man” (Colossians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17) in contrast to his “old man” (Colossians 3:9) who led a life of sin. In this sense, there is a spiritual Israelite. But for this study, spiritual Israelites and spiritual Israel refer to those who are not Israelites thus not Israel. Israel refers to a nation-state, such as found in the Old Testament under many Israelite kings like David and Solomon. Spiritual Israelites are restricted to a seed line going back to Jacob/Israel from which the name Israelite comes. Just as there are no spiritual beagles, lions, whitetail deer, etc. there is no spiritual Israel outside true Israelites. As previously stated, there are spiritual Israelites. Finally, the Israelites are the white people of the world. A non-white person cannot become a spiritual white person any more than a white person can become a spiritual black person to take on the qualities God has given each of these races. Biblical teachings that support Israel being a physical seed rather than a spiritual seed follow.
The Covenant Is Made with Israel Alone
(Per Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Consider the Hebrews 8:6-11 connection: it puts the New Covenant in the lap of Israel alone. Quoting the key portion of the above passages teaches that the New Covenant is restricted to Israel alone, just like the Old Covenant. The Israelites of the New Covenant descended from the same Israelite stock as Israel of the Old Covenant. There is no spiritual Israel in the New Covenant, and certainly not in the Old Covenant.
Jeremiah 31:31, 33 (Hebrews 8: 8, 10): “Behold the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Even though the New Covenant was restricted to Israel, the Israelites did not do a good job obeying the law of that Old Covenant. Therefore, God found fault with the Israelites (Hebrews 8:8) under the Old Covenant and thus gave them a New Covenant with better promises (Hebrews 8:6), such as Jesus Christ dying for their salvation (Hebrews 7:22).
In conjunction with the New Covenant, a look at Romans 9 would be in order. Romans 9:4-5 teaches something critical to this study: it identifies exactly who can be called an Israelite. “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…:” Let me point out that it is “concerning the flesh Christ came.” With this language, there is no room for spiritual Israel. Flesh is physical. Reading further in Romans 9 to verse 7: “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Then, reading further to verse 8, we learn, “They which are the children of the flesh (such as Ishmael), these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Finally, Paul tells the Romans that their seed goes back to Isaac, just like Paul’s when he writes and says of them, “our father Isaac” (Romans 9:10).
These thoughts are a brief look into the topic. They should be sufficient, however, to defeat the idea that there might be spiritual Israel.
Psalm 147:19-20 is my closing passage. It reads: “He (God) showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them.” This promise is to physical Israel. Nothing in the New Testament has added to it or changed it in any way to include those who are not Israelites.
It is important to believe what the Bible teaches and not interject what it does not teach. Herman Cain, Dr. Ben Carson, and Dr. David Manning all profess a belief in Jesus Christ and have a good witness to that effect. However, this profession does not make them an Israelite. They cannot trace their lineage back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—something that is required to be an Israelite. Their belief system does not include, for example, the covenants God made with Israel, because they are not Israelites. I have great respect for these men, but biblical truth must prevail. They remain non-Israelites with a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This faith changes nothing to make them Israelites; thus, they are not spiritual Israel. Israel is a collection of Israelites where like parts make the whole. Again, the promises God gave Israel (in covenants and in establishing the everlasting throne of David, etc.) are not applied to those who profess they are spiritual Israel.
Pentecost of Acts 2.
The 120 Christians who gathered in the upper room waiting for Pentecost were all Israelites, for they asked Jesus this question, of which only Israelites would have interest: “…wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 2:6).
Three main points of Acts 2:
Point one. The Holy Spirit, Who was promised to Israel, arrived. Peter speaks to this in his sermon when he quotes from Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21. Other promises of the Holy Spirit coming to Israel are these: Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 11:19, Zachariah 12:10.
Point two. Those who came to Pentecost had come from many areas of the greater Mediterranean Sea area and are identified as Israelites. Consider the Israelite language that Peter used when he said to them, “Ye men of Judaea…Ye men of Israel….let all the house of Israel know…” (Acts 2:14, 22, 36). If those who came were not Israelites, how would they know or be interested in Pentecost? We must remember that throughout Scripture and biblical history, biblical festivals were for Israel alone.
Point three. Salvation came to Israel by Jesus Christ, as promised. Zachariah’s prophesy tells us this in Luke 1:67-79: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us” (Luke 1:68-69). Further, Matthew 1:21 (Isa 7:14; Isa 53:4-8; Psalm 135:4; 149:4) teaches that Jesus came to “save his people from their sins.” The phrase “His people” refers to Israelites alone for the following reasons:
When Jesus was born into this earth as a man, He took on the seed line of the Israel people so that He could be the sacrifice for their sins, thus confirming who “his people” were per Matthew 1:21. Therefore, “he took on him the seed of Abraham…to be made like his brethren…to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:16).
B. His Israelite genealogy is given at the beginning of Matthew chapter one.
C. Jesus and Israelites are of the same family: Israel. “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Ephesians 5:30).
D. Jesus’ genealogy is further narrowed to be that of David: “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). Further confirmation that there is no spiritual Israel is found in Jesus’ instruction to the Apostles to “go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6). Also, Matthew 15:24 teaches, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Any of these verses would have been good passages to reveal that there is now also a spiritual Israel. But that did Christ reveal such information? No.
New Testament Letters Were Written to Israelites. A selection is shown of a wider pool of choices.
Letters of Paul
Paul identifies himself as an Israelite when he refers to himself as “of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Philippians 3:5).
Letters to the Corinthians: “MOREOVER brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea….and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). When Paul writes to the Corinthians and says to them “our fathers,” this makes them Israelites just like him. Nothing could be plainer.
Letter to the Galatians: “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). There are many non-Israelites who believe in Jesus Christ, but that does not put them under the New Covenant. To be under the New Covenant, the faith must be of persons who are also in the lineage of Abraham via Isaac and Jacob (when God changed his name to Israel—Genesis 35:10). However, the teaching of Galatians 3:7 is straightforward. Israelite first; faith second. Additionally, Paul wrote to the Galatians this: “Christ hath redeemed us (Israelites) from the curse of the law…” (Galatians 3:13). Israel is the only people to whom God gave the law as a covenant per Exodus 19 and 20. This makes the Galatians Israelites.
Letter to the Colossians: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat (food laws), or in drink (alcohol), or in respect of an holyday (festivals), or the new moon, or of the sabbath days” (Colossians 2:16).
Letter to Timothy: “But is not made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 1:10). Since Paul was an Israelite and Jesus came to save the Israelites, then I see Timothy as an Israelite. Why? Because “our Savior Jesus Christ” plainly claims possession of Christ.
Letter to the Hebrews. The whole book.
B. Letter of James: “…to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting” (James 1:1). This statement makes the book of James written to Israelites.
C. Letters of Peter: “…to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). Identified in Acts 2 as Israelites are those from Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Asia. Further, Peter quotes from Exodus 19:5. He uses the same language that was given to Israel at that time and now is applied by Peter to these New Testament Israelite Christians, thus meaning they are the same people as in Exodus 19: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9).
D. Letters of John: “THE elder unto the elect lady and her children…” (2 John 1:1). Since Israel is referred to as a woman in the Bible, I see the “elect lady” as that woman (Isa 54:1-6; Jer 3:8). The children are the Israelites.
III. The Sealing of protection was only on Israel. “…Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel (Revelation 7:4). The servants of God are the seed line of Israel. This would be a good place to include non-Israelites under God’s protection, but the language is not there.
The New Jerusalem is couched in terms of being of the seed line of Israel. In Revelation 21:12-14, with only Israel being used to describe the New Jerusalem, it would seem that the door is closed to there being a spiritual Israel. These thoughts are a brief look into the topic. They should be sufficient, however, to defeat the idea that there is a spiritual Israel.
Psalm 147:19-20 is my closing passage: “He (God) showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them.” This promise is to physical Israel. Nothing in the New Testament has added to it or changed it in any way to include those who are not Israel.