Riddlebarger: Jesus Is The True Israel

Israel’s possession of the land of promise, therefore, was part of a national covenant and was conditioned upon national obedience. The New Testament writers are clear (much to the dispensationalist’s dismay) that the everlasting land promise God made to Abraham is now fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is the true Israel. This becomes clear when Paul universalizes the Abrahamic promise of a land in Palestine now extending to the ends of the earth (Rom. 4:13). Abraham is now depicted as heir of the world.

Kim Riddlebarger | A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 19.


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  • Tony Phelps
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    Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children.

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25 comments

  1. The “who or what” as pertains to the word Israel is a question that has fascinated me, and I’m certainly not alone judging from the volumes written on the subject. At times, the word is clearly depicted as a nation, the land itself, the Jewish people, and often in the New testament, as the Church. Dr. Riddlebarger’s assessment makes sense, given that Jesus is the chief cornerstone. Thanks to Pastor Phelps for mining that gem from the book that changed the theological direction of my life.

  2. Acts 2:39 The promise is to you and to your children, and all who are far off, all that the Lord shall call. Gen. 22:17 The promise is that God would multiply Abraham’s descendants like the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea. It is all based on believing the promise. Those who believe the promise, like their father Abraham, those are the true, spiritual decedents, like Isaac, and Jacob who was renamed Israel, because he believed and valued the promise of blessing so that he strove for it. Gen. 35 As Jesus is descended from Jacob, in His human nature, He is Israel, and all those who are in Him, through faith, are also in Israel.

  3. I believe I can truly learn from Dr Riddlebargers book (as well as others past, present, future), as I was a Fundamentalist until the mid 80s, and believe I’ve been a maturing and ‘ever learning’ staunch Calvinist since then.
    I believe and trust our Great God’s Most Holy Word more than ever thru all these years, yet I often find myself ‘still open’, if ye will, to what may be termed as a kind of ‘light dispensationalist.’ I’m sure that can be dismissed by some as being somewhat wishy washy at least. I’m still studying this and always open to and welcome great sources on this topic. I don’t seem to find myself TOTALLY going along w/Amillennialism. I’m taught to discern Yahweh’s Most Holy Word LITERALLY, the best we may. Again, I’m truly interested in more info!✝️📖🛐

    • Doesn’t it all come down to believing the promise? Faith in the promised Saviour is what distinguished the patriarchs from the likes of Ishmael and Esau. Because of unbelief the branches were broken off and the believing gentiles are grafted into Christ, the promised One of Israel. How is that not ultimately spiritual? Romans 11:20

    • Angela, Paul is speaking very specifically about Israel and the gentiles. He is not speaking of a spiritual Israel. Roman 11:25-32 is very important in my view to understanding to significance of the Gods Earthly Israel of which we as gentiles have been ingrafted. This is carried out through all of scripture, particularly in revelation where the tribes of Israel are specified once again. I am by no means a scholar, but this is what I read in scripture and study. No, I am not a dispensationalist.

    • They are not all Israel which are of Israel. Romans 6:6. Paul establishes that difference between the true Israel and false Israel is their spiritual faith. The gentiles that are grafted into the olive tree through their spiritual faith, while the Israel that thought they belonged to God by their fleshly descent through Abraham are broken out of the olive tree. Not through the earthly flesh is anyone part of the true Israel, but only because of God’s promises, which they believe by God’s grace. So all that are the true, spiritual Israel will be saved.

    • Again, I point you to Romans 11:25-32. Paul is not spiritualizing Israel. We gentiles are privileged to be included in the original tree.

      • JP,

        “Spiritualizing” is an interesting adjective.

        When was the covenant of grace other than spiritual?

        What was Abraham when God called him to new life & true faith?

        Are people elect or saved because they are Jewish?

    • The covenant of grace is indeed spiritual, that does not equate with Israel being “spiritual”. Abraham was set apart as Gods chosen patriarch of His people, just as we gentiles are set apart when we are ingrafted by grace through faith into this tree. We are ALL saved by grace through faith in Christ. I think the argument here is the distinction between Jews and gentiles. I believe there is a distinction. They are not better, but distinct. The church is not Israel in my view. The church is included, a continuation and ultimate summation of Gods grace, Jews and gentiles together. My very humble opinion, according to scripture.

      • JP,

        Abraham was set apart as a Gentile.

        The NT consistently regards Israel as “the church.” That’s what Paul does in 1 Cor 10:1-4. They had baptism (into Moses) and the Lord’s Supper and so do we. That’s the point of everything he says there. So does Jude 5 (the correct reading is “Jesus”). It was Jesus who led them through the Red Sea. He was the head of the church under the types & shadows. The emphasis all over the NT is the continuity of the covenant of grace, including the continuity between the church under the shadows and the church under the reality. There is one church in all times, different administrations. It was temporarily Jewish, but it was always the church.

        The Hebrew word for covenant assembly קהל (Qahal) is translated in the LXX as εκκλησια (ekklesia) or church.

        The church has always been the Christ-confessing covenant community, first under types and shadows, then under the reality.

        The Church: The Christ-Confessing Covenant Community

  4. Very xlnt AND helpful comments, Brethren! Thank you 3, esp Dr Clark’s comments. I must study and investigate yet more. Thanks for this topic and article!✝️📖🛐

  5. With regard to Romans 11:25 – I agree with Hodge and Murray who remind us that the Apostle Paul is here speaking as a prophet and therefore his language must be interpreted by the rules of prophetic interpretation. “Prophecy is not proleptic history. It is not designed to give us the knowledge of the future which history gives us of the past. Great events are foretold; but the mode of their occurrence, their details, and their consequences, can only be learned by the event. It is in the retrospect that the foreshadowing of the future is seen to be miraculous and divine.”

    • What always needs to be the focus of interpreting Scripture is what it is all about, which is Christ. There is only one people of God. Those are the elect, the ones that God the Father gave to God the Son before the foundation of the world. They are identified by their spiritual faith in the promises of God. God chose to give these promises to the Jews first and then to all the world. Some believed while others did not. The unbelieving Jews are the branches broken out of the olive tree, while believing gentiles are grafted in through their spiritual faith. It all depends on God’s election. God can just as easily graft Jews into the olive tree again by giving them spiritual faith. It is God’s election that determines who is in the olive tree, not their flesh. Not all the Jews will be saved, but those chosen by God, to have faith in Christ, who is the Israel of God. So, all Israel, that is to say those who have been saved by God through faith, and are in Christ, are God’s people. Israel is now expanded to include all the world. It is no longer just to the Jews but the promise is to the stranger who is far off as well. Abraham’s offspring, in the faith, is found throughout the world.

    • This disregards vs 25-32. It is a mystery, we cannot understand it, but God, through the apostle Paul has said that this will happen. It should give great joy to gentile believers.

    • It disregards the mystery of God once again calling his earthly covenant people unto Himself after the time of the gentiles has come in. It spiritualizes Israel. I agree to the fullness of the church to include both Jews and gentiles, but again, the distinction that Paul and God makes between them is marked in Romans 11. I am not saying Gentile believers are lesser, because Christ has made us equal. But I reject that the church has replaced Israel or has become Israel. I know, no one has suggested that in this thread, but it is an undercurrent in my reading. I apologize if this is an incorrect perception. I know that you, Dr Clark, have rejected this thinking.

      Matthew Henry on 11:22-32 Of all judgments, spiritual judgments are the sorest; of these the apostle is here speaking. The restoration of the Jews is, in the course of things, far less improbable than the call of the Gentiles to be the children of Abraham; and though others now possess these privileges, it will not hinder their being admitted again. By rejecting the gospel, and by their indignation at its being preached to the Gentiles, the Jews were become enemies to God; yet they are still to be favoured for the sake of their pious fathers. Though at present they are enemies to the gospel, for their hatred to the Gentiles; yet, when God’s time is come, that will no longer exist, and God’s love to their fathers will be remembered. True grace seeks not to confine God’s favour. Those who find mercy themselves, should endeavour that through their mercy others also may obtain mercy. Not that the Jews will be restored to have their priesthood, and temple, and ceremonies again; an end is put to all these; but they are to be brought to believe in Christ, the true become one sheep-fold with the Gentiles, under Christ the Great Shepherd. The captivities of Israel, their dispersion, and their being shut out from the church, are emblems of the believer’s corrections for doing wrong; and the continued care of the Lord towards that people, and the final mercy and blessed restoration intended for them, show the patience and love of God.

    • JP, it seems to me that the key to this is in your quote from Matthew Henry: “Not that the Jews will be restored to have their priesthood, and temple, and ceremonies again; an end has been put to. these; BUT THEY ARE BROUGHT TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST.” All those who are brought to believe, together with the believing gentiles. Not because they are Jewish in the flesh, but by the grace of God that extends to all people through faith alone.

    • In my view, considering what we are discussing, these are key sentences: “By rejecting the gospel, and by their indignation at its being preached to the Gentiles, the Jews were become enemies to God; yet they are still to be favoured for the sake of their pious fathers…..The captivities of Israel, their dispersion, and their being shut out from the church, are emblems of the believer’s corrections for doing wrong; and the continued care of the Lord towards that people, and the final mercy and blessed restoration intended for them, show the patience and love of God.”

      And yes, they will be brought to believe in Christ.

    • JP, yes it is an illustration of how God’s mercy is still available to the Jews, despite their defection. God can still restore them through faith. This demonstrates God’s patience and love. God has not written them off, but will save all the elect, who are brought to saving faith in God’s promises, through God’s electing grace.

  6. Do you all have comments pertaining to the 144,000 in Revelation! Only relatively most recently have I read and heard teachings that those will be Jews. Is this speculative and/or opined speak, or is it possible and /or probable? I’m certainly not convinced those will be Jews, even though we know, of course, that our God’s Biblical and Providential Plan is obviously for HIM to complete. Thanks✝️📖👍

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