Although the New Testament clearly says that all Israel will be saved, the real question that needs to be answered is, Whom does God consider to be part of Israel today?
The prophets in the Old Testament clearly predicted the coming of the Messiah. His birth place, where He would appear as well as when and how He would die were all predicted. When the Messiah would appear, the glory of the Lord would be revealed to all the earth. When these prophecies were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus, through both His teachings, and His many miracles, the evidence was plain and clear to all the world that God had sent His Son into the world for their salvation. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in the midst of a huge concourse of people, it was an evidence that could not really be gainsaid that here was a miracle that had never been performed before. Here was a person who had the ability to call the dead from their graves.
Jesus demonstrated that He was the resurrection and the life, that He had power over death, that He had come into the world for their salvation. He did not promise the people eternal life immediately. He said, “If you believe in Me, though you die, you will live. The one who believes in Me, I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40, literal translation). The evidence was overwhelming that through a belief in Jesus Christ of Nazareth as Lord and Saviour there was a way out of the tomb. But, the Old Testament prophets also predicted that the Messiah would be rejected by the Jewish people. (See Isaiah 53).
It was predicted that He would be crucified. (See Psalm 22.) He would be resurrected again and would go back to heaven. When Jesus came, and the Jews rejected Him, He told them what was going to happen to them: “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?” Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.’ ” (Matthew 21:42, 43).
He said, “You will no longer be God’s chosen people because you have rejected the majesty of heaven. You have rejected the only One who gives you eternal life.” There is only one person in the universe who can give you eternal life. Notice what Jesus said in John 5:40 speaking to the Jews. He says, “You are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” He is called, “The Prince of Life” (Acts 3:15). The apostle Peter made the following statement to the Jews: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
There is no other way, the New Testament says, to have eternal life. There is no other way to escape death, the grave, except through Jesus Christ. He is the One who is the life-giver, He is the one who created the world (John 1:10). He is the One who upholds everything in the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:1–3). He is the only One who can give you eternal life. If you reject Him, John said, you have lost everything for, “This is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11, 12). It’s that simple. The one who has the Son of God has life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life. There is no one in the universe who can give you eternal life except Jesus Christ.
There are people in heathen countries who are following the voice of the Holy Spirit, perhaps unknowingly, but who are living up to all the light that they know. They will have eternal life, but that eternal life is through Jesus Christ.
When the Jewish people rejected Jesus Christ, they rejected all means of salvation. If you do not know about Christ but are living up to the all the light you have, you can be saved. But if you reject Christ who is “… the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), if you reject truth, you are rejecting all possibility of having eternal life. So Jesus said to the Jews that the kingdom of God was going to be taken from them. It was to be given to a nation that would bring forth the fruits of it.
Even when they crucified Christ, the kingdom of God still was not taken from them right away. They were given even another opportunity to repent. On the Day of Pentecost while Peter preached to the Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world, He told them that they were responsible for the crucifixion of the Majesty of heaven (Acts 2:22, 23). They were pricked in their conscience and said, “What shall we do” (verse 37)? “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be converted, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ ” (verse 38, literal translation).
Jesus taught that nobody could be saved if they did not receive the Holy Spirit. (See John 3.) In mercy, the Jewish people were still offered salvation even after that. However, they became so bitter and vehement in their opposition to Christ that eventually they were willing to kill anyone who was a Christian. In fact, the first Christian martyr was Stephen the deacon. The Jews stoned him to death for telling them the truth of the gospel. While giving his last sermon and realizing his death was inevitable, Stephen said to his persecutors,
“ ‘You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.’ When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at Him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:51–58).
Stephen was stoned for witnessing to them the gospel, and after that, the gospel went to the Gentiles. (See Acts 8.) The Jews could still be saved individually, but as a nation they were no longer God’s chosen people. Jesus was very clear that the kingdom of God was going to be taken away from them because they rejected the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. They rejected the Majesty of heaven.
So, who is Israel now? Who are His chosen people now? It is not the Jewish nation, for they have not accepted the Messiah even to the present day. They are not God’s chosen people, according to the New Testament.
The promises of salvation given to Abraham by God are all conditional on obedience. The Jews are in need of the gospel just like all the rest of us and can be saved.
Who is Israel today? It says in Galatians 3:26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” These are the people that have been baptized in the name of Christ. They are now Christians. He says that if you have done this, then you have put on Christ.
Verse 28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” Notice, it doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew or Greek or what nationality you are. What matters is, Have you been baptized into Christ? Are you a Christian? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female.”
A sharp distinction was made in the old covenant in the law of Moses, between males and females, but those distinctions, the apostle Paul says, do not apply anymore. He says there is no distinction between a Jew and a Greek, or between a servant or a slave and a free person. There is no distinction between a male and female.
It is amazing that even with this plain instruction in the New Testament even Christians can’t seem to get it figured out. In the eyes of God all are equal. There are no differences, for all are one in Christ Jesus, whether a Jew or a Greek, a male or a female, slave, free, whatever you may be. All are one in Christ Jesus. Notice verse 29: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
O, that is a wonderful verse. Paul says that if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed; you are Abraham’s children; you are Israel, heirs to eternal life according to the promise of God.
John the Baptist tried to teach the Jews this. He said, “Do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:9).
Jesus made the same truth clear in John 8. He acknowledged that the Jews were Abraham’s children according to the flesh, but it is not being a child according to the flesh that matters. Notice what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christian church in Rome: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Romans 2:28, 29).
It is not outward profession that matters. It is the one who has the circumcision of the heart, circumcision representing the cutting away of sin from the life. This is not a new teaching. If you go back to the Old Testament, you will see that the prophets pleaded with Israel continually saying that the children of Israel needed to circumcise their hearts and cut sin out of their lives.
“For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed— God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:13–17).
So, we may ask the question again, Who is Israel today? Everyone who has been baptized into Christ comprises modern spiritual Israel. They are the new covenant Israel. If you want to become part of God’s chosen people, under the new covenant, then you need to be baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. You need to acknowledge the sovereignty of Jesus Christ in your life. You need to acknowledge Him as your Lord and Saviour so that you can become part of Israel today.
Notice what Paul says in Romans 9:6–8: “It is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”
Who is Israel today? Israel today are all those Jews or Gentiles who have been baptized into Christ, who have acknowledged Christ as their Lord and Saviour and who are following Him, who acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ, that is, the Lordship of Christ, and that He is their Saviour from sin. Remember, there is nobody else in the universe who can give you eternal life. There is no one else in the universe who can take your sins away. John said, “He that has the Son has life and he that does not have the Son does not have life.”
But something terrible has happened since these wonderful things were written. Today, most of the Christian world is under a delusion just as big as the Jewish world was in the days of Christ. John predicted in Revelation 12:9 that the devil would deceive the whole world in the last days.
There is a deception upon the Christian world today that is similar to the one that was upon the Jewish world in the days of Christ and the apostles. It is the belief that trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour from sin sets you free from the ordinances or decrees or laws pointing forward to the work of Christ in the Christian dispensation, as the apostle Paul clearly stated in Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2. But, the book of Revelation predicts that the devil will deceive the entire world. (See Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13, 16, 18, and 19.) How does the devil deceive the Christian world today?
The Jewish world was deceived when it refused to accept the Redeemer of the world. The Christian world profess to accept the Redeemer of the world, but then they say there is no more need to keep His law because grace sets you free and you don’t need to worry about that anymore.
The idea that grace sets you free from keeping God’s law is addressed by almost all the apostles. Paul says, “That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). Then he says in verse 7, “Because the carnal mind (the unconverted person) is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The apostle Paul is very clear in both Romans 6 and 8 that the Christian is under obligation to keep the law of God. The apostle John talks about it also. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him and does not keep His commandments,’ is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3, 4). John spells out clearly what sin is, who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil.
Notice what John says: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:4–10).
How could you state it any more plainly than that? The apostle Peter talks about the very same thing when he says, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21–24).
Peter says that if you are a Christian, you have died to sin and you live for righteousness. In other words, you do not continue in breaking God’s law, for sin is breaking God’s law.
James is just as clear as any of the other Bible writers. In James the 2nd chapter he not only spells it out, but he says that according to God’s ten commandment law we are going to be judged. The standard of the judgment is God’s law—the ten commandment law—which is not ten separate laws but just one law (Exodus 24:12).
Notice what James says: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery (the 7th commandment), but you do murder (the 6th commandment), you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:8–12).
The New Testament is clear. Paul, Peter, John and James all said that obedience to the law is necessary for salvation. In fact, it is spelled out in the book of Revelation that at the end of the world the whole world is going to be divided into two classes: those Christians that keep the law of God and those Christians who do not keep the law of God. What class are you going to be in? The class you choose will determine your eternal destiny.
Notice what it says in Revelation 12:17: “The dragon (the devil) was enraged with the woman (the church), and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring (the last church), who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
God’s people in the last days will keep His commandments. In Revelation 14:12, it says, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” God’s people in the last days of earth’s history, according to Revelation 12, 13 and 14, will be those who keep God’s commandments. They will not be people that say, “Well, I believe in Christ, therefore I can live any way I please.”
O, friend, what side are you going to be on when the world comes to an end? Will you be part of those who are Christians in deed and not just in name?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.