Does the Church Replace Israel? (Part 2)

In Galatians 4:21-31 we find the apostle Paul using an allegory to teach the Galatian believers about the true nature of Israel. Paul begins by saying that the mothers of Abraham’s children, Sarah and Hagar (Keturah and her children are not mentioned in this context), represent two covenants. He is referring to the Old and the New covenants. Hagar represents the Old or Mosaic Covenant, while Sarah represents the New Covenant. Hagar is described as the slave woman, while Sarah is described as the free woman. The covenant that Hagar represents is from Mount Sinai, which represents the present city of Jerusalem, and is said to bear children who are to be slaves. This is another way of saying that the Old Covenant was a works covenant and could only produce unbelievers.

Paul goes on to describe what the New Covenant, the work of Jesus on the cross,  produces, which are believers. The New Covenant is described as the Jerusalem that is above  and she (Sarah) is our mother. This covenant produces true believers who have their sins forgiven and a new heart (Hebrews 10:14).

At this point in the passage Paul quotes an Old Testament verse (Isaiah 54:1) that prophetically describes a time in the future when Israel will be regathered back into the land of Palestine. This is interpreted by Paul as referring to the  New Covenant era (from Pentecost until the 2nd Coming) when God will produce a real people of God (the church). This will be unlike the people produced by the Old Covenant (Israel) for they were unbelievers. They were only a temporary, unbelieving, picture of the people of God. The church is a spiritual Israel. In Isaiah 54:1 Israel is described as a desolate woman who cannot bear any children. This is an accurate appraisal of Israel under the Old Covenant who were rejected by God. This rejection is seen in the destruction of the northern kingdom in 722 BC and the destruction of the southern kingdom in AD 586. With the coming of the New Covenant era God is once again going to make Israel fertile. This fertility is seen in those coming to faith in Jesus Christ this side of Pentecost. This is a spiritual Israel and it is the church. The prophecies regarding the regathering of Israel back into the land are truly fulfilled by the coming of the New Covenant era and the church of Jesus Christ.

At this point in the passage Paul states that those produced by the Old Covenant, which is literal Israel, are persecuting those produced by the New Covenant. He then goes on to say that we (true believers) are not the children of the slave woman (Hagar=Old Covenant). We are the children of the free woman (Sarah=New Covenant). This allegory brings out into the open the truth that literal Israel was never intended to be the real people of God. They were only a temporary picture until the real people came along.

One thought on “Does the Church Replace Israel? (Part 2)

  1. Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give their fathers. … And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. … Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had madeto the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

    ~ Johsua 21:43 – 45 (ESV)

    Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
    And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

    ~ Galatians 3:16, 29 (ESV)

    Therefore [Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, … . For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

    ~ Hebrews 9:15, 17 (ESV)

    Hi / thanks, Geoff; I’m glad that you’re well. Do you plan to respond to Reid (comment # 10 to Part 1; he challenged the essential presupposition of Covenant Theology (the ostensible identity between Israel* and the Church**)?

    * temporal bride; divorced and ultimately stoned for adultery (A.D. 70)
    ** eternal Bride

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