The Abrahamic Promise
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
…And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
…And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
…I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
(Gen 12:1-3,7; 13:14-17; 28:13-14)
The Promise Fulfilled in Christ
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. …There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:16,28-29)
The Dispensational Challenge
Dispensationalism is the most popular system of theology in Evangelical American Christianity today. Most likely, the books you read, the sermons you hear, and the “Christian” movies and music you watch and listen to are presenting their message from a dispensationalist view point. Dispensationalism arose in America as a result of the liberal/fundamentalist controversy and as a consequence of the premillennial revival of Millerism in the mid-1800s. Dispensationalists have a high view of Biblical Inspiration and interpret the Scriptures in a straight forward literal manner. Unfortunately, adherents to the dispensational system tend to slander those that hold to more traditional Christian interpretation of the Scriptures by calling them “Replacement Theologians” and by claiming that only the dispensational system presents a solid Biblical for the future of the nation of Israel.
Both of these claims were handled by Dr. Fred Klett, a Jewish Evangelist, in an article which I summarized in the first two parts of this series (part 1, part 2). Dr. Klett, in the third part of his article tackles the logical and most difficult question that arises from parts 1 and 2. How do we reconcile what the Bible teaches about Gentiles being grafted into Israel (a so-called “Spiritual Israel”) and what the Bible teaches about God’s future plans regarding the political/ethnic nation of Israel?
Commonwealth of Israel
Klett reconciles these two Biblical truths by pointing a very important concept pointed to by Paul in Ephesians 2 –
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world …Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Eph 2:12, 19)
The Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) defines a commonwealth as follows:
A state; a body politic consisting of a certain number of men, united, by compact or tacit agreement, under one form of government and system of laws.
A commonwealth then, is a political body of people who, by agreement [Covenant], are united under a system of government. Klett provides the illustration of the kingdom of Great Britain during it’s heyday. Peoples from North America, Africa, and India have been subjects of the commonwealth of Great Britain. Those people submitted to British rule were not themselves English, but they were citizens of the commonwealth. Says Klett: “So it is with those who are ruled by the Jewish Messiah. Have they not submitted to the King of Israel? Are they not voluntary members of His Kingdom, under His rule and in His service? Those who believe have accepted Israel’s King and are now members of His Kingdom, known as the Commonwealth of Israel. Israel is the Kingdom of the King of Israel.”
At it’s core then, are the ethnic Hebrew peoples (most of whom are in rebellion), but the enlarged Commonwealth is made up of all of those who are in submission to Jesus Christ as King, just as much as an Irishman is a citizen of the UK, though not an Englishman. Ultimately, the King will again subdue the native people of his Kingdom and engraft them back into their native Kingdom (Romans 11), but this does not void the citizenship of those that have been made fellow citizens with them, of the larger kingdom.
Christ, Our Mediator and Federal Head
So, how is it then that Gentiles come to be engrafted into the Israelite Kingdom, without first being made into Hebrews and without living in obedience to the Covenant that God at first made with the Hebrew peoples? The answer is given by the Apostle Paul in the third chapter of Galatians: “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 …For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:16,26-29).”
Here, the Apostle explains that the promise made to Abraham finds its ultimate fulfillment in Christ. This same Jesus Christ was made under the law to fulfill all righteous requirements of the law on our behalf to merit salvation for his people. He bore all our sin and guilt in order to satisfy the law’s justice so that he could wash us and make us clean. This same Jesus is both son of Abraham and son of David. He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises and thus the heir of God’s blessed inheritance. SO, how is it that Gentile believers take part in this inheritance? Answer: by being IN Christ!
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
According to the Apostle, to be without Christ is to be outside the promised blessings of Israel, but to be IN CHRIST, is to be a joint heir (Romans 4 and Galatians 4) with Christ and to take part in the blessing which our Mediator and Federal Head has attained for us on our behalf. Yes, Christ is our circumcision, He is our law obedience, He is our Sacrifice, He is the promised seed, He is the son of David – all the promises in Him are Yeah and Amen (2 Cor 1:20)!
What God has promised the nation of Israel by the Prophets of Old, He has not failed to provide – “When someone gives IMMEASURABLY MORE than that expected, the gift giver is no liar.” In order to properly understand God’s Plan for the Ages we need to center our Biblical hermeneutic squarely on the person and work of Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, the Messiah of Israel, and the Captain of our Salvation.
Let’s affirm the great expansion of blessing the Messiah has brought. He has tremendously expanded the promises to Israel, and He has greatly enlarged Israel by bringing Gentiles into His spiritual commonwealth, the Kingdom of God. This was promised to Israel by Isaiah when he said “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy…of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (9:3 and 7) and “Let no foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, `The LORD will surely exclude me from his people…these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer” (56:3 and 7). We have now come to “Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn…” (Hebrews 12:22-23)