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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 11

Who is a Jew?

By Phil Enlow

The question of who is a Jew is one of great importance in this hour to those who desire to walk with God and to understand His Word. Even in the natural realm this question is one of great debate among those who are gathering in Palestine. There is often sharp disagreement over the proper criteria by which to establish whether one claiming to be a Jew is one in reality or not. But in the spiritual realm the question is infinitely more important.

Peter spoke in Acts 3:20-21 of the coming of Christ in connection with “the times of restitution (restoration) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” We know that the Old Testament prophets prophesied many great things concerning the restoration of Israel and the many glorious things involved. But who is the Israel to whom these promises are made?

There are many who widely proclaim over radio, in camps, in conferences, and in various publications that they were made to the natural descendants of Abraham and that the assembling of many Jews in Palestine today is a direct fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. There are many others who, while equally Bible-believers, do not hold this teaching, but believe that these promises were made to Spiritual Israel, The Church, and that we ought, therefore, to expect a great restoration of the Church.

Though it is perhaps very tempting in seeking an answer to this question to rest our case in the hands of “tradition,” Dr. So-and-so, or our Bible footnotes, what we really need to do is to consult the Word itself. Many would begin such a search in the Old Testament, but the New Testament writers indicate that the Old Testament prophets themselves did not really understand the full significance of the things they were prophesying (I Peter 1:10-12, Colossians 1:26, Ephesians 3:1-11). And not only did the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day fail to understand their own scriptures (II Corinthians 3:14-15, Matthew 15:14), but even Jesus’ own followers were very ignorant of their true content (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45) and required the Master himself to personally open their understanding. It would therefore seem reasonable that our search should be conducted primarily in the greater light of the New Testament wherein are contained insights withheld from the writers of the Old Testament (Daniel 12:9).

ABRAHAM’S SEED

In observing the promises to Abraham, we note that they were made to him and to his seed. Paul gives us a key in Galatians 3:16 where he says, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” The promises made to Abraham’s seed were actually made to Christ! Down in verse 29 he says, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The promises, then, are extended through Christ to all those who are “in Christ.” Verse 7 says, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Romans 4:11 says, “And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.”

Also in Romans 9:6-8 we find these key words, “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 4:28 says, “Now we, brethren,” (Gentile believers) “as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” In Romans 2:28-29 Paul says, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly: ... But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly.” It is very evident from these scriptures that the true seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made are those who are in Christ. Is it any wonder then, that Paul addresses Gentile believers in Galatians 6:16 as the “Israel of God?”

In addition to the scriptures already cited, it might be well to consider these as further confirmation. Jesus, in Revelation 2:9, and also in 3:9, spoke of the “synagogue of Satan” and of those “which say they are Jews and are not.” Jesus also indicated that the Jewish leaders, though naturally descended from Abraham, were not Abraham’s children, but the Devil’s (John 8:39-44). Yet on another occasion He pointed to a young Jew named Nathaniel and said, “Behold an Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). John the Baptist warned those who would trust in the fact that they were descended from Abraham that only true repentance would do them any good (Matthew 3:9-12). Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). The sons of God are not those born of blood (John 1:12-13). In summary, then, the true seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made consists of Christ and those who are in Him.

JERUSALEM

Much is made of the city of Jerusalem in Palestine and of what is taking place there. But what Jerusalem is God concerned about? A key scripture is found in Hebrews 12:22. Speaking to Christians, the writer says, “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” -- not that they were someday to go there, but they were already come to it! Another key passage occurs in Galatians 4:21-31. Verse 25 speaks of the natural city of Jerusalem as “Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” The next verse says, “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” The Jerusalem that God is concerned about is His Church, the New Jerusalem, the City of God, the Bride of Christ.

Now note what Revelation 11:8 says about natural Jerusalem: “And their dead bodies (the two witnesses) shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” In God’s mind the Church is Jerusalem, and natural Jerusalem is “Sodom” and “Egypt” (See Isaiah 1:10)!

GOD’S CHOSEN NATION

In Exodus, God commanded Moses to speak these words (19:5-6): “Now therefore if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Note that this promise is conditional. In Matthew 21:45, Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders and said: “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”

What nation is that? Peter wrote in I Peter 2:9-10 (to the Church), “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” The Church, then has become God’s chosen nation, the nation bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom of God.

Of course it should be pointed out that “the Church” in God’s eyes consists only of the tiny remnant who have truly been born into His Kingdom and not the church world in general.

CIRCUMCISION

Paul wrote to Gentiles in Colossians 2:11-12 and said, “In whom” (Christ) “ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:” (how?) “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Paul here indicates that true apostolic baptism (see past articles in MCM) is the true circumcision (made without hands) of which the Old Testament circumcision was a type. In Rom. 2:28-29 he says, “Neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but ... circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

In Philippians 3:1-3 Paul warns the believers of the Judaizers, who were trying to bring Gentile believers into bondage under the law, and then says, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” True believers are, in God’s mind, the only ones who are circumcised, and hence in covenant relationship with Him. While circumcision is widely practiced in our day for medical reasons, it has absolutely no spiritual significance: God is interested in people’s hearts.

NO DIFFERENCE

The New Testament clearly indicates that the natural Jew is in no better position in relation to God than is the Gentile. Romans 10-12 says, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” Ephesians 2:11-22 and 3:6 indicate that believing Gentiles and believing Jews have equal access to God through the cross, and thereby become “one new man,” “the household of God,” a “holy temple,” “of the same body.” There are many other scriptures, but these will suffice. The great gulf between Jew and Gentile was forever ended when the Old Covenant passed away.

NEW TESTAMENT USE OF OLD TESTAMENT

It is very interesting to notice the way in which the inspired writers of the New Testament interpret and use the Old Testament scriptures. A few examples ought to be noted. Jeremiah 31:31-34 prophesies of the new covenant to be made “with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” Twice in the book of Hebrews (8:8-12 and 10:16-17) this prophecy is quoted and applied to the Church! Who is “Israel” and “Judah” in God’s eyes? Isaiah 28:16 speaks of the cornerstone to be laid in Zion, yet Peter applies this prophecy to Christ as the cornerstone of the Church, and thus calls the Church Zion (I Peter 2:6, see also Hebrews 12:22).

In the council of Jerusalem, called to consider whether Gentile believers ought to be required to keep the law, James uses Amos 9:11-12 in an interesting manner. (This passage has often been grossly twisted). In Acts 15:13-17, after making the point that God was taking a people from the Gentiles for Himself, he quotes Amos in support of what he has just said (not as a prophecy yet to be fulfilled in natural Israel), and thereby indicates that the Church is the Tabernacle of David spoken of by Amos.

These interpretations by New Testament writers ought not to seem strange when we consider I Peter 1:10-12. This passage indicates that the prophets prophesied of the grace that should come unto “you” (Christians). He says that the Spirit of Christ (!) that was in them “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” Also, they did not minister these things unto themselves, but unto us. The “things” referred to are the things preached in the gospel.

The primary ministry of the prophets was actually to the Church. Many of their prophecies had some application to natural Israel in their time, but their complete fulfillment is in the Church. Many other scriptures could be cited which take Old Testament scriptures and apply them spiritually to the Church, but these are sufficient to give us pause before we blindly follow those who insist upon a “literal” interpretation of the Old Testament. We need to wait on God to find out what He meant -- whether the words are meant to be understood literally or spiritually.

In addition to the many scriptures which we have cited, we ought to take special note of the fact that there is a complete lack of New Testament support for the theory that natural Israel is to be restored. Some would consider Acts 1:6 a straw worth grasping after. Here the disciples questioned Jesus concerning the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. In the first place, we do not know what “Israel” the disciples had in mind. In the second place, Jesus did not answer their question, but only turned their minds away from seeking to know times and seasons. In the third place, even if they had meant natural Israel, Jesus had already answered the question in Luke 17:20-21, and knowing the Holy Spirit would soon descend to guide into all truth, simply let the error (if they were in error) pass to be corrected later. There is certainly not much foundation here for the doctrine that natural Israel is to be restored.

Many make much of God’s promise of the land of Canaan in Genesis 13:14-17. There God promises it to Abraham’s seed forever, and seemingly without condition (at least none is mentioned). To begin with, throughout the rest of the Old Testament, it is very evident that this promise was applied only conditionally to Abraham’s physical descendants. See Deuteronomy 30:15-20 for one example among many.

A very interesting key as to what lay in God’s mind in making that promise may be found in Romans 4:13: “For the promise, that he should be heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” When we look back through the promises made to Abraham, we find no such promise recorded. It is evident that in God’s mind, the Canaan before Abraham was only a type of that which He had purposed to give His people, that is, the whole earth, and not this corrupt earth, but a “new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (II Peter 3:13). This is “according to his promise,” Peter says.

Hebrews 2:5-10 indicated that the world to come will be put in subjection to man and that those sons whom Jesus will bring to glory will be the ones to rule it. Surely a literal land of Canaan could never be an everlasting possession since it is on earth which itself will pass away! God’s purpose included something far grander that giving natural Jews a plot of terra firma! We who are in Christ will reign forever on a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness! Hallelujah!

Perhaps we ought to consider one more thing which may prove a stumbling block to some. Romans 11:25-26 says, “... blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved ....” Many see in this a promise of restoration to natural Israel. To begin with, this cannot be understood apart from the point so clearly made in Romans 9:6-8 that “they are not all Israel which are of Israel.” This “all Israel” refers to an elect remnant (9:27, 11:5) who alone are true Israel out of the whole of natural Israel.

Then, too, 11:26 does not say, “And then all Israel shall be saved,” but, “And so all Israel shall be saved,” indicating the manner of salvation, not the time. To find what the manner is we have only to look back at verse 23: “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in.” In 11:7 we read, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”

What is Paul saying in all of this? Simply this: during the time in which the fullness of the Gentiles is being gathered in, there is an elect remnant out of natural Israel which will believe and be grafted in. The rest of natural Israel will be blinded until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, at which time Christ will be revealed in His second coming and the blindness of all mankind (including the non-elect majority of natural Israel) will come to a cataclysmic end. Thus will “all Israel,” that is, the elect remnant, be saved. For a much greater development of these things see The Abrahamic Covenant, by Dr. George B. Fletcher.

Who is a Jew? If you are Christ’s you are the seed of Abraham and an heir according to the promise. To you the prophets ministered when they prophesied concerning the restoration of all things. The whole Bible belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ and God’s wonderful covenant may be seen in both the teachings of the New Testament and in the types, shadows, and prophecies of the Old. Let us seek His face that He may unveil His whole Word to us and let us not be blinded and led astray by those who are glorying in the events in Palestine. I rejoice in Obadiah 17 which says, “But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions!”

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