Who Are God’s Chosen People?
“As you study this subject in light of this essay, you may find that it contradicts what you have been taught. If this is so, it is because you have been taught a “system,” not the scripture. What does the term “chosen people” mean? Many think immediately of Israel. Is this correct? What does the Bible say?
Who was Deuteronomy 7:6 (speaking of ‘chosen people’) spoken to? Deuteronomy 6:3-4 reveals it was spoken to Israel. At that time, Israel consisted of all those that came out of Egypt with Moses (see Deuteronomy 7:8). A very similar verse is Deuteronomy 14:2. In 1 Chronicles 16:13, Israel is called “His chosen ones”: David wrote Psalm 33:12; 105:6, 43. And Isaiah records these words from the Lord: Isaiah 41:8-9; 43:10,20; 44:1. In Isaiah 48:12, the Lord refers to them as “My called.” And Daniel calls them “His chosen people” (Daniel 11:15).
From the above, it can be seen that the phrase, “chosen people” definitely applied to Israel. But, what was the composition of Old Testament Israel? According to the Bible, Israel was made up of: 1) the descendants of Jacob (Exodus 1:1; Joshua 13:6, etc.), and, 2) those who joined Israel through circumcision and keeping the law (Exodus 12:48ff).
Keeping the covenant was a requirement for all those who wished to remain a part of Israel (Genesis 17:14, Exodus 12:15,19; 30:32,38; 31:14; Leviticus 7:20-21, 25,27; 17:4,9-10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; and Numbers 15:30-31). These Scriptures, and many others, show that membership in the nation of Israel was dependent on obedience to God’s commandments. To disobey God was to lose one’s citizenship.
When most people think of Old Testament Israel, they think exclusively in terms of Israel as a nation. Yet, this is not the true Biblical meaning of “Israel”. The name “Israel” has always had a twofold significance: one national, and the other religious. For example Exodus 19:6 and Amos 9:11-12 proclaims that the remnant of Israel would be largely an entity of religious instead of national destination. Isaiah says much the same thing (Isaiah 56:7-8).
The primary meaning of “Israel” in the Old Testament stands for the religious covenant community, the people who worship God in truth and Spirit. Secondarily, it denotes a distinct ethnic group or nation which is called to become spiritual Israel. Decisive for the Old Testament prophets and their prophecies is the theological quality of the ‘people of God,’ not their ethnic and political characteristics.
Contrary to the claims of Hal Lindsey, and other dispensational authors (Charles Ryrie, etc.), the blessing of Israel’s election was not unconditional. When the election service is withheld, the election loses its meaning, and therefore fails. .If Israel ceased to acknowledge God to be her Lord, then she declared that she no longer wished to be His people. Her high calling to be the ‘Chosen People’ was not the mark of Divine indulgence or favoritism, but a summons to a task exacting and unceasing, and election and task were so closely bound together that she could not have one without the other.”
Did Old Testament Israel lose her election? As Paul would say, “God forbid!” The Old Testament prophesied in many places that a “remnant” would be saved. The question is: Of whom was this remnant to consist? According to Jeremiah 31:31-34, the remnant would be made up of those who “know the Lord,” and whose sins would be forgiven completely (unlike under the Old Covenant – Hebrews 10:1-4). This was to be made possible through the initiation of a “new covenant.” This New Covenant (or “Testament” -KJV) was ratified by Jesus at His crucifixion, shown to His disciples in symbolic form in the Last Supper (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25).
Is New Testament Israel any different from Old Testament Israel? The Israel of the New Covenant is made up of 1) those descendants of Jacob who believed in the Messiah (Matthew 10:6; 15:24; Acts 2:36-41; 21:20, etc.), and, 2) those who joined Israel through spiritual circumcision and the keeping of the new “law” (Romans 2:28-29; 13:10; 1 Timothy 1:5).
With the establishment of the New Covenant, physical descent was no longer a determining factor for entrance into Israel. Only those who believed in the Messiah could enter or remain a part of Israel. Let us examine what the Bible has to say on the subject in Jeremiah 11:16. Verse 17 says this was directed to “the house of Israel, and the house of Judah.” Read what Hosea says of Israel in Hosea 14:6.
Paul picks up the olive tree motif in Romans 11:17-24. He says those Jews who rejected the Messiah were themselves rejected and “broken off” (or cut off, to use the Old Testament term) from the “olive tree” of Israel (verse 20). The apostle showed that the only possible way to remain a citizen of Israel was to believe in Jesus as Messiah. This citizenship was also offered to the Gentiles on the same condition. If they would put their faith in the Messiah of Israel, they would be made fellow citizens of Israel (Ephesians 2:19). Christ created His church, not beside Israel, but as the faithful remnant of Israel that inherits the covenant promises and responsibilities. Christ’s church is not separated from the Israel of God, only from the Christ-rejecting Jewish nation.
The identification of the church with Israel is explicit in Peter’s first epistle (1 Peter 2:9). Here, Peter definitively states that those who “believe” in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:7) were the “chosen race” and the “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9; compare Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; and 14:2). Only in Christ could Israel as a nation have remained the true covenant people of God. God’s covenant people are no longer distinguished by racial or territorial characteristics, but exclusively by their faith in Christ. And the land we have inherited is a spiritual one. The spiritual blessings of citizenship in the Israel of God are ours as servants of Christ, but what of the “unconditional” land promises of the so-called “Palestinian Covenant”?
Is present Israel a fulfillment of prophesy?
One of the most common assertions of the premillennial dispensationalist today is that the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 is proof that the Jews are still “God’s Chosen People,” and that He still has prophetic plans for them. (This has been asserted more vigorously than ever due to the recent hostilities in the Middle East). It is claimed that God was at work bringing the Jews back to their “ancient homeland,” and that they have a Biblical right to claim Palestine as their own. Are these claims correct? Was the formation of the State of Israel evidence of God’s blessing? Of God’s election?
Just what Scriptures do dispensationalists use to support these claims? How do they come to their conclusions? As you may know already, the dispensationalist uses what he calls a “literal hermeneutic.” That is, he claims to interpret the words of the Bible at face value, understanding them in their “normal,” everyday usage and meaning. This extremely literal hermeneutic is then used to “interpret” the prophecies of the Old Testament that speak of the return of God’s people to the Holy Land. However, this literalism is also used as an excuse to ignore the plain reinterpretation by the New Testament writers of these very same prophecies. Even when the inspired writers of the New Testament give a meaning to the Old Testament. prophecies other than a “literal” one, the dispensationalist will say that this is not the complete meaning, and that these prophecies “remain to be realized for Israel.”
One of the Scriptures the dispensationalist claims was fulfilled by the 1948 formation of the State of Israel is found in Ezekiel 36-37. This prophecy was given to Ezekiel during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:1-2), and foretold the eventual return of Israel to their land. Tied in with this prophecy was the prediction of the coming Messiah (Ezekiel 38), and the inauguration of the New Covenant. As we know from both secular history and the New Testament, the people did return to the land and the Messiah did come and establish the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28). Despite this, dispensationalists deny fulfillment of either of these prophecies, saying they found only a “partial fulfillment” in Israel’s return and Christ’s first advent. They further allege that the re-gathering of Jews to form the current State of Israel is part of the final fulfillment. They say the blessings of the “Palestinian Covenant” are only now coming into existence. The promises of such passages as Deuteronomy 30 are touted as “Scriptural basis” for Israel’s re-gathering. How should we answer such claims?
According to Deuteronomy 30:1-8, a necessary condition for the re-gathering of Israel to Palestine was returning to the Lord (verses 2-3). Based on this clear passage of Scripture, it can be definitely concluded that the State of Israel, which now exists, was not formed as a result of the blessings of this covenant (the “Palestinian Covenant” of the Scofield Bible).
The Jews of 1948 (except for maybe a few isolated individuals) did not turn to the Lord. And, to base the formation of Israel upon their alleged “faithfulness” to Judaism is to betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what Judaism is. Some think the Jew of today has a special advantage, perhaps even salvation without Christ, because they believe in the God of the Old Testament, and follow the Old Testament religion. This overlooks the fact that the religion of the Old Testament was based on making sacrifices for sins (Leviticus 17:11). It also ignores the statements of the New Testament that there is absolutely NO salvation outside Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12), and that the Old Testament religion was no longer efficacious (Hebrews 7-10). The Lord of the New Testament is Jesus. This revelation casts light on who the Lord of the Old Testament is. For example, Peter quotes Joel 2:32 as being fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 2:21).
What shall we answer when the dispensationalist claims the existence of the State of Israel today is “proof” of God’s covenant blessing upon them? With the clear backing of Scripture, we can say, “NO!” We can then point to Deuteronomy 30:1-8 as proof that the Israel of today is definitely not the Israel of the Bible! But, what about the land promised to Abraham?
Paul, in citing the promise to Abraham, does not limit the territory to Palestine: It was NOT through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith (Romans 4:13). This is an extension of the statement of Jesus in Matthew 5:5, in which the meek shall inherit not merely Palestine, but the earth. As you can see, the inheritance is for Abraham and his offspring. The dispensationalist believes Jewish people are entitled to the inheritance based on their racial extraction or ethnic heritage. But, Paul counters this idea in Galatians 3:7,29. In case he hasn’t made it clear enough, Paul reiterates for those who expect some special privilege for physical descendants of Abraham: “Now to Abraham’s and his seed the promises were made. He does not say, And to seeds’ as of many, but as of one, And to your seed, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). The only way to inherit anything is in Christ! The Jewish leaders who came to John the Baptist thought the Kingdom was theirs automatically by virtue of their heritage. (Matthew 3:9). The Apostle Paul states the nature of true Jewishness in Romans 2:28,29; 9:6-8; 11:5-7.
The full scope of Israel’s prophets was not nationalistic, but universal, with an increasing cosmic dimension which took in heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17; 24:21-23). The writer of Hebrews assures them Abraham was not looking merely to Palestine for fulfillment of the promises. He looked for “a better country,” and a city “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10,16). The continuity of the Old Testament terms and Middle East images in Hebrews assures the church that God’s promise has neither failed nor been postponed, but is experienced now in Christ (Hebrews 6:5), And, the land promises made to Abraham are fulfilled in the universal Kingdom of God.
In conclusion, we have studied the subject of who God’s Chosen People are, and have found that, according to the Bible, Israel is now composed of all those who believe in Jesus as Messiah. It is not correct, therefore, to state that the church has REPLACED Israel. Rather, the church IS the continuity of the Old Testament Israel of God; it has only replaced the Jewish nation. There is no more “Jew” and “Gentile” racial distinctions. All nations are now a part of Spiritual Israel in Christ. Christ’s kingdom is here now in fullness. All (who were a part of the true spiritual) Israel were saved and given the inheritance (Romans 11:26).
With the advent of the war in the Middle East, many people are wondering what is taking place in a prophetic sense. As preterists, we can say with assurance that the events now taking place are NOT a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that all prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70, at which time the New Covenant was fully established, making the Kingdom available to all who would believe in Jesus as Savior (Messiah). Some emotionalism is understandable in time of war. However, we need not fear the Great Tribulation or being “left behind” in the Rapture. We know by the time limitations recorded in the New Testament that these things have already occurred, and we are living in the new spiritual promised land.
Speaking of Jews, here is what the scripture says:
Isaiah 65:15, “And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name:”
Matthew 21:43, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
The above two verses were fulfilled in 70 AD, when the Jews were slayed, the temple burned down, and the Kingdom of God was taken from the Jews and given to all who believe in Christ.
Other Proof that there is no Jewish Race Today
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, the nation of Israel, after the flesh, was scattered throughout the earth, and lost all tribal relations. This scattering was made immutable due to the fact that all tribal genealogical records were destroyed with the Temple in A.D. 70. The simple fact is that there is no existing Jewish race. Not only the Bible confirms this (as already revealed), but the writings of worldly authorities, including Jewish resources as well. Consider the following quotations:
The Encyclopedia Brittanica (1973): “The Jews As A Race: The findings of physical anthropology show that, contrary to the popular view, there is no Jewish race. Anthropocentric measurements of Jewish groups in many parts of the world indicate that they differ greatly from one another with respect to all the important physical characteristics” (vol. 12, page 1054).
Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem (1971): “It is a common assumption, and one that sometimes seems ineradicable even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that the Jews of today constitute a race, a homogeneous entity easily recognizable. From the preceding discussion of the origin and early history of the Jews, it should be clear that in the course of their formation as a people and a nation they had already assimilated a variety of racial strains from people moving into the general area they occupied. This had taken place by interbreeding and then by conversion to Judaism of a considerable number of communities. . . .
“Thus, the diversity of the racial and genetic attributes of various Jewish colonies of today renders any unified racial classification of them a contradiction in terms. Despite this, many people readily accept the notion that they are a distinct race. This is probably reinforced by the fact that some Jews are recognizably different in appearance from the surrounding population. That many can’t be easily identified is overlooked and the stereotype for some is extended to all – a not uncommon phenomenon” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem, 1971, vol. 3, p. 50).
Encyclopedia Americana (1986): “Racial and Ethnic Considerations. Some theorists have considered the Jews a distinct race, although this has no factual basis. In every country in which the Jews lived for a considerable time, their physical traits came to approximate those of the indigenous people. Hence the Jews belong to several distinct racial types, ranging, for example, from fair to dark. Among the reasons for this phenomenon are voluntary or involuntary miscegenation and the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism” (Encyclopedia Americana, 1986, vol. 16, p. 71).
Collier’s Encyclopedia (1977): “A common error and persistent modern myth is the designation of the Jews as a ‘race! This is scientifically fallacious, from the standpoint of both physical and historical tradition. Investigations by anthropologists have shown that Jews are by no means uniform in physical character and that they nearly always reflect the physical and mental characteristics of the people among whom they live” (Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1977, vol. 13, p. 573).
Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia (1970): “In 1970 the Israeli Knesset adopted legislation defining a Jew as one born of a Jewish mother or a convert” (vol. 14, p. 214).
H.G. Wells: “There can be little doubt that the scattered Phoenicians in Spain and Africa and throughout the Mediterranean, speaking as they did a language closely akin to Hebrew and being deprived of their authentic political rights, became proselytes to Judaism. For phases of vigorous proselytism alternated with phases of exclusive jealousy in Jewish history. On one occasion the Idumeans, being conquered, were all forcibly made Jews. There were Arab tribes who were Jews in the time of Muhammad, and a Turkish people who were mainly Jews in South Russia in the ninth century. Judaism is indeed the reconstructed political ideal of many shattered peoples – mainly Semitic…. The main part of Jewry never was in Judea and had never come out of Judea” (The Outline of History, p. 505).
John Bray: “Many Christians do not know that the vast majority of so-called Jews in the world today are the Ashkenazim Jews, while the remainder of them are the Sephardim Jews. The Ashkenazim Jews have as their background not the nation of Israel but a country called Khazaria, which country at one time was the largest country in Europe. The settlers of Khazaria were Turks and Huns. In A.D. 740 King Bulan of Khazaria decided to adopt the Judaistic religion for his country. A number of Jews were already living there. So he converted to Judaism, along with all his officials, and whole nation ended up being known as a nation of Jews. In 970, Russia came in and dominated the situation, and the Khazars were scattered, many of them going down into Poland and Lithuania. Where at the dawn of our modern civilization the largest concentration of Jews were found. Today, the largest percentage of so-called Jews in the world have as their background this group of people” (This information is fully documented in detail in John Bray’s book, Israel in Bible Prophecy).
Today, being a Jew simply means that one is of the Judaistic religion or a convert to it, or else in a “brotherhood” of those who are. Therefore, being a Jew has nothing to do with race. We are familiar with a number of notable figures, such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and Tom Arnold, in fact, who became Jews by conversion to the religion of Judaism.
Therefore, we can clearly and confidently assert that there is no such thing as a Jewish race, nor ever can there be. Since the fall of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the nation of Israel in the first century, the nation calling itself Israel has consisted of a collection of people from nearly every nation in the world, with no relation to the twelve tribes of the historical nation known as Israel. Any attempts to state that there is, or will ever again be, a race of Israelites are proven to be futile and of no force. There is no Jewish race.
What should a follower of Christ think of Jews?
Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Followers of Christ ARE Jews! Followers of Christ have not REPLACED Israel…the followers of Christ ARE Israel. Spiritual Israel.
Jews do not practice “Old Testament religion;” they are not almost Christians, lacking only acceptance of the Messiah and the New Testament. They do not worship the true God, not even the “God of the Old Testament” Jesus was quite adamant: If they had believed Moses, they would believe Him. (John 5:46-47) They don’t believe the Old Testament either. The religion of Judaism is a Talmudic faith, not Biblical. Those who support, as the majority of premillenialists do, the secular nation of Israel at this time, simply because they are so-called Jews, and claim the premillenial system relies on Israel as a pivotal aspect of itself, give succor to apostates and enemies of Christ, and actually encourage them in their unbelief.”