by L. R. Shelton Jr.

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The Creation Concept

Abraham's Spiritual Seed

Christ and the New Covenant

Jesus Christ Rules on David's Eternal Throne

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of Christ

The Character of the True Israel, Old and New

The Promises of God to Abraham

How God Brings Us into the True Israel

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6. The Character of the True Israel, Old and New

As this great truth of the present rule of Christ over His kingdom and His people, the true Israel of God, reigning with Him (Rom 5:17) unfolds, we are made to praise the Lord that God's chosen people on earth today are one in Him, heirs with Him, members of His body, married to Him, and are made partakers of His kingdom with Him. They are not looking for a physical kingdom of power and splendor, which lasts only for 1000 years, but are, like their spiritual father Abraham, looking "for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb 11:10). Also like Abraham, "they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city" (Heb 11:16).

Therefore, I believe it would be in order for us today to look at the expressions used in the New Testament, which indeed are gathered from the prophets of the Old Testament, as to how the true Israel of God, the children of the kingdom of God are described. Remember now, these descriptions apply to those who make up the kingdom of God now, and not in a so-called kingdom of 1000 years here upon this earth in the future.

Remember what we have seen: the New Testament teaches that the church, the body of born-again believers, the true Israel of God, is the true and only heir to all the Old Testament promises. It teaches that the church alone fits the description of the chosen people referred to in the Old Testament; that it alone is God's special instrument for communicating His eternal purpose, and that in the sight of God there is no longer any difference between the Jewish nation and all the other nations of this world.

The descriptions given in the Old Testament, of the true Israel of God-- the church, the spiritual kingdom of God--are applied by the dispensationalists and the premillennialists to the physical nation of Israel in a so-called golden age upon this earth when Christ is supposed to rule and reign 1000 years with His throne in Jerusalem. But the New Testament writers know nothing of such a teaching, because they apply these Scriptures which describe the true Israel of God, to the church of the living God in Christ, and to every believer who makes up the body of Christ, the kingdom of God.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of the manner by which the true Israel of God would be called: "They shall call thee, the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 60:14). In Hebrews 12:22, this designation is given to the true Israel of God: "Ye are come unto Mt. Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem."

In Isaiah 61:3, the true Israel of God is called: "Trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD." This expression follows Isaiah 61:1-3, and foretells our Lord's earthly ministry while here on earth, and which He Himself confirms in Luke 4:18-19. All believers, the true Israel of God, are "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord" because they, as the trees of righteousness, "bring forth good fruit" (Mat 7:17). They, as trees of righteousness, are "planted by the heavenly Father" (Mat 15:13); and they, as trees of righteousness, are not cut down by the axe of God's wrath (Mat 3:10).

Again in Isaiah 61:6, we read that the true Israel of God "shall be named the priests of the LORD: men shall call you the ministers of our God." This is applied to all believers, the true Israel of God, by the apostle Peter: "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 marvellous light."

Again in Isaiah 62:4, "Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah," meaning: "For the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married." In Matthew 3:17, we hear the heavenly Father saying that He was well pleased with His Beloved, the Lord Jesus, and delighted in Him. So He is also pleased, delighted, with His children, the true Israel, who have been accepted in Christ the Beloved (Eph 1:6) and married to Him (Eph 5:27-32). Christ is the Bridegroom and His people the bride, those whom He has bought with the price of His own precious blood; they are married to Him and in them He finds His delight.

Again in Isaiah 62:12, "They shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken." How do the New Testament writers show that these names belong to the present spiritual Israel? 2 Timothy 1:9 says we were called with an holy calling; 1 Peter 1:18-19 says we were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ; Luke 19:10 says that we were sought out by the Holy Spirit when we were lost in sin; Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us that the same Holy Spirit quickened us and made us alive unto God in Christ, and Ephesians 1:4 tells us that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God.

Let us go further. From the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament we can also piece together a full-length description of those men and women, young people, boys and girls, saved by the grace of God in Christ, who would be the true Israel of God. They would have everlasting joy upon their heads (Isa 51:11). Their eyes and ears would be open to the things of the Lord, and their tongues would sing His praise (Isa 35:5, 6). Their voices would be the voices of joy and gladness (Jer 33:11). The word of the Lord would be in their mouth (Isa 51:16). The law of the lord would be written in their hearts (Jer 31:33). Their lives would "flourish like an herb" (Isa 66:14) and their feet would be "beautiful upon the mountains" (Isa 52:7).

All of these Scriptures can be traced out to show their fulfillment in the spiritual Israel of God as recorded in the New Testament, for this is what our God does for us when He saves us. Old things pass away, behold all things become new (2Co 5:17). Christ gives us of His joy to the full (John 16:24). We speak to ourselves in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord (Eph 5:19). We rejoice in the Lord (Phi 4:4). With our mouth we offer the sacrifice of praise to thanks to His name (Heb 13:15). Surely God's law is written upon our hearts (Heb 8 & 10) and we say with Paul that we delight in the law of God in the inward man (Rom 7:22) and out of our inward parts flow rivers of living water (John 7:38) as we walk in the pathway of righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:24). And truly those who preach His gospel have beautiful feet (Rom 10:15).

Are you beginning to see that the Old Testament and the New Testament agree that it is God's spiritual Israel in Christ to whom these things are spoken? Israel after the flesh cannot claim these precious promises and truths, but only those who have been born again by the Spirit of God. Because God is not the author of confusion (I Cor 14:33), we may be sure He did not inspire the New Testament writers to describe the church in the above terms unless such terms, after Calvary, referred only to the church. You see, only one body of people--either the nation of Israel or the church, but not both--can be the children of promise, the children of Abraham, the elect of God, the true circumcision, the heirs of the kingdom and the people of God.

Again, Isaiah prophesied that "Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isa 27:6), and "the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water"(Isa 35:1, 2, 6, 7).

The prophet also promised: "The LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody" (Isa 51:3). And, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them" (Isa 11:6).

Oh, what a description of the true Israel of God when by the Holy Spirit the poor sinner under conviction is made to lay down his arms of rebellion, hoist the white flag of surrender, and lay at the feet of God in true repentance, taking the blame for his sinful condition and pleading guilty at the bar of God's justice. What a picture of that same sinner, now forgiven, now washed in the blood of Christ, now cleansed and made whole with his heart of rebellion broken, a little child in obedience, resting by faith in Christ! What a picture of the soul saved by the grace of God with a new nature and heart, praising God for His mercies! Surely the wolf of his depraved nature is made to dwell with the lamb nature that God gives him. Surely his leopard nature is made to lie down with the kid nature that he has received from God. Surely by God's grace his desert heart that was cold, rebellious, proud and unbelieving, now rejoices and blossoms as he brings forth fruit unto God and rejoices in God his Savior.

All of this could not be said of physical Israel after the flesh because they are full of unbelief and still cry today: "We will not have this man to rule over us." They still hate the precious name of Jesus, the Jehovah of the Old Testament. No, dear friend, this all applies to the spiritual Israel made up of repenting, believing Jews and Gentiles, in whose hearts the Spirit of the living God has worked and thus prepared them for the entrance of the King. Now let us see more of the names given to the true Israel of God by the New Testament writers and see how so many of them are fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies.

We are called "the children of God" (Rom 8:16); "the household of God"(Eph 2:19); "the children of Abraham" (Gal 3:7); "Abraham's seed" (Gal 3:29); "the children of promise" (Rom 9:8); "heirs according to the promise" (Gal 3:29); "the elect of God" (Col 3:12); "the heirs of God" (Rom 8:17); "the temple of God" (1Co 3:16); "the true circumcision" (Phi 3:3); "the Israel of God" (Gal 6:16); "heirs of the kingdom" (Jam 2:5); "the sons of God" (John 1:12); "kings and priests unto God" (Rev 1:6); "the New Jerusalem" (Rev 3:12); "the holy city"(Rev 21:2); and four things are spoken of us in 1 Peter 2:9, "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 marvellous light."

If the Word of God says that believers in Christ are all these things just mentioned, then we should praise Him that we are spiritual Israel. Surely since the New Testament teaches us nothing about a future kingdom of Christ here upon earth, and since the Scriptures are plain that the promises of the Old Testament apply to this present time and the New Testament always gives them a spiritual meaning, then we can safely say that the chosen people of God are His blood-bought ones, and not one little nation in the Near East that lies in darkness and unbelief.