What does the Bible teach about Israel as a people and nation? What about the relationship between Christianity and Judaism? What is the place of Israel within the Church? Is the nation of Israel rejected by God or fulfilled by the Church? What about Israel today and the whole Middle East situtation? Is the state of Israel the result of prophetic fulfilment or the imposition of a secular state displacing the indigenous population? What is the future for Israel? So many questions and difficulties to be resolved.

The hermeneutical assumption given by supersessionists (who believe the Church has taken over from the nation Israel in the promises of God) is that the New Testament takes priority over the Old Testament and that Old Testament texts concerning Israel are not literal. In fact Israel is merely a type of the church. The Old Testament promises are transcended by the New Testament teachings. So reading the Old Testament can only be done through the New Testament which limits and modifies the original passage. Therefore promises about Israel and the land are spiritualised. The Old Testament is interpreted only in terms of types which find fulfilment in Christ and the church. The original meaning is abandoned or reinterpreted and instead Israel in the Old Testament becomes a type of the church/antitype in the New Testament.

It is pretty clear that the New Testament writers do sometimes use typology when interpreting the Old Testament (Matt 2:15 with Hosea 11:1) but this does not mean that they treat all Old Testament texts in this way, or indeed that they did not see the literal meaning in the original text (Matt 2:5f with Micah 5:2; Matt 21:4f with Zech 9:9). When pesher is applied to the Old Testament text by the New Testament author, it is in addition to the original meaning not instead of it.

The New Testament does clarify and expand upon the Old Testament but it does not redefine it. The new covenant in the New Testament relates to the church but it will also be fulfilled with Israel: “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”” (Romans 11:26–27 cf. Isa 59:21). The new covenant is in effect now in the church and will be fulfilled with Israel in the future. There is an explicit, literal and UNCONDITIONAL promise in Jeremiah 31:35–37 that the status of Israel as a NATION will continue.

“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.”” (Jeremiah 31:35–37)

If the Old Testament is viewed by the New Testament writers as typology and Israel is a type of the church then we would not expect to see anything in the New Testament about a future national salvation for Israel. But we do...

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28)

“For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”” (Matthew 23:39)

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”” (Acts 1:6)

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19–21)

And let's not forget Romans 11:1-36

So how should we approach the Bible in terms of Israel?

The starting point for understanding any passage in the Bible, including those in the OT, is the passage itself.

This first point is straight forward. The primary meaning of any Bible passage, including those in the OT, is found in the original passage itself. Scripture shines light on other Scripture, but God intends for each portion of Scripture to contribute to His revelation.

Progressive revelation reveals new information, but it does not cancel unconditional promises to Israel.

"I do not see enough reason to conclude that with the coming of Christ the original meanings of these passages are somehow not what they were before. Yes, NT writers will make analogies and use illustrations and applications from the OT in ways that OT writers could not have known. Yes, in the progress of history, NT writers will highlight divine correspondences and types between OT and NT persons, events, and institutions. Yes, at times the NT will offer commentary on OT passages that give us even more understanding of the OT passages. The NT may even add referents to OT prophecies. But these uses of the OT in the NT will supplement and harmonize with God's earlier revelation—not change or alter them to mean something different from what OT authors intended. God may do more than what was originally intended with these OT passages, but He will not do less." (Michael Vlach)

National Israel is not a type that is transcended by the church.

Old Testament promises can have a double fulfillment or application with both Israel and the church.

Problem passages

Matthew 21:43

  • Michael Vlach: "My view of Matt 21:43 is that the kingdom of God would be taken from the current unbelieving nation of Israel and given to a future nation of Israel that would believe. Matthew 23:37–39 indicates several important truths that support this understanding. Verses 37–38 indicate that Jerusalem, the representative city of Israel and the people of Israel, would be judged despite Jesus' attempts to gather it like a hen gathers her chicks. But verse 39 offers hope: "For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, 'He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One'!" While the current nation of Israel would be judged, Jesus says the day will come when another generation of Israel will cry out in acceptance of its Messiah. As Fruchtenbaum observes, "The point is that the kingdom while taken from the present Jewish generation, will be given to a future generation of Israel." This generation will be the "all Israel" who "will be saved" according to Rom 11:26 and the Israel who will "look on Me whom they have pierced" of Zech 12:10. Thus, I agree with Saldarini when he claims that theologians who interpret "nation" as the church "are reading second-century Christian theology" into Matt 21:43"
Series of videos by Arnold Fruchtenbaum addressing the issue of Israel's place in God's plan and Israel's relationship to the Gentile Church.