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Kingdom of God Q&A: Question Four

Read the Introductory Post to this Q&A Series

Can we, as New Testament believers, claim the promises made to Israel? For instance, in Ezekiel 36, the Lord is speaking to Israel about cleansing from idols.

As New Testament believers, God has made incredible promises to us. He has promised us:

• Salvation from sin (Matt 1:21)
• Eternal Life (Matt 19:29; Jn 3:15-16)
• Justification (Rom 3:24-28)
• Supernatural Comfort during affliction (2 Cor 1:4, 7; 2 Cor 7:6)
• Mercy (Eph 2:4)
• Grace (Eph 2:8)
• Rewards (1 Cor 15:58; James 1:12)
• Our Necessities (Matt 6:30, 33)
• Answer to prayer (Matt 7:7-11; James 1:6)
• Resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-28)
• Immortality of the body (1 Cor 15:42-54)
• The right to enter the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev 22:14)
• And much, much more!

As you can see from this list, God gave New Testament believers many magnificent promises. But the question remains, “Can we claim the promises God made to Israel?”

The quick answer is that the church cannot claim explicit promises to Israel. I would argue that we should read and interpret the Old Testament the way the original authors intended, and their audiences would have understood. This approach is called the grammatical-historical-literary interpretation.[1] With this approach, we recognize that the New Testament builds upon and relies upon the previous revelation of Old Testament passages.[2] Said another way, the NT continues the OT storyline and affirms the literal fulfillment of the OT promises and covenants in all their dimensions through the two comings of Christ.[3] Therefore, we can be confident that God will fulfill every promise in the OT (and the NT) just as He has said.

Now, God may not have intended the OT promises to the church, yet we will benefit from them. Paul hints at this in Romans 11:11-15 –

11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make them jealous.
12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!
13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
14 if somehow, I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.
15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

In the OT, God made specific promises to Israel, which I would argue only apply to Israel. From this passage, we cannot miss that God blesses the Gentiles through His relationship with Israel. God has exiled Israel in the current age, yet Gentiles still receive the blessing of Israel’s connection to God. We cannot deny that the Messiah is the Son of Abraham and David, who came from the tribe of Judah (Matt 1:1-2). We must recognize the apostles and prophets are Jews and are also the church’s foundation (Eph 2:17). 

According to Paul, Israel's transgression and failure have resulted in riches and reconciliation for the Gentiles! How much more are their fulfillment and acceptance? It will be life from the dead! In this age, God has richly blessed Gentiles. Yet when God completely fulfills His promises to Israel, He will bring renewal to the world, benefiting all His people - Jews and Gentiles alike.

Now, many of our brethren argue that God transferred His promises from Israel to the church. They believe Israel’s disobedience has caused God to reject them. Therefore, Israel has received the curses which Moses promised in Deuteronomy (see Deut 28:15-68) with no chance for deliverance as a nation. In response, I would ask, how can we trust God’s promises if He did not keep them with Israel? In Paul’s words, God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew (Rom 11:2)? Therefore, I am convinced that God will keep His promises to His people Israel, which has been and will continue to be, the means through which He will keep His promises to His church. 

[1] Michael Vlach, He Will Reign Forever (Lampion Press, LLC 2017), 32.
[2] Ibid, 36.
[3] Ibid, 38.