Does the Church replace Israel? Is Israel still part of God's plan?
Theologians have debated this question for years and come to different conclusions. However, the Bible does speak directly to the issue of whether the church has replaced Israel with a few word pictures to help us understand God's perspective.
First, God promised Abraham in Genesis 12 that he would be "a great nation… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2–3). In Genesis 15, God expanded that promise and said that Abraham's offspring would be as numerous as the stars. These promises meant that Abraham would become the father of a great nation (the Jews) and that all other nations would be blessed by them through the birth of the Savior of the world. Galatians 3:29 explains that, "if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." Ephesians 3:6 further expounds, "the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." In other words, Gentile Christians have been adopted into Abraham's family. As Romans 9:8 explains, "it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring." So Christians are adopted into Abraham's spiritual family and enjoy the rights and privileges of being God's children.
However, when new children are adopted into a family, the biological children do not cease to be a part of the family. They do not lose their rights or privileges. Paul addresses this concern in Romans 11 when he states, "Has God rejected his people [the Jews]? By no means!... they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:1, 28–29). Just because Gentile Christians now share in the spiritual blessings of being God's children does not mean that they replace the Jewish people or that God's promises are no longer true for the Jews.
In fact, the second word picture the Bible uses provides assurance of God's continued plan for the Jews. Paul explains that God's work in humanity is like an olive tree where He is the nourishing root and the Jewish people are branches (Romans 11:16). "Some of the branches [Jews] were broken off, and you [Gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree… even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches [the Jews], be grafted back into their own olive tree" (Romans 11:17, 23–24). This passage suggests that God's plan is to bring the Jewish people back to the olive tree as a fully restored branch. Romans 11:30–31 details "For just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [Jews'] disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy."
God has not abandoned the Jewish people or nullified His promises to them. Second Samuel 7:28 confirms, "O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true." Hebrews 6:17–18 says, "when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us." Promises made to Israel that are yet unfulfilled will be fulfilled at some point in the future. Because of God's character and nature as true and unchanging, He will always fulfill His promises.
Because the church does not replace Israel and some of God's promises have yet to come true for Israel, then God's plan must still be on-going for the Jewish people. So while Gentile Christians and Israel are now part of the same family or branches of the same tree, the church is not the same thing as Israel. God does still have a plan to fulfill His promises to the Jewish people in His own way and His own timing.
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