Who Is Israel?
Almost limitless misunderstanding, ignorance and distortion have pervaded the church for many centuries concerning the identity of Israel. This seems extraordinary because the statements of the Bible regarding Israel are so clear. Nevertheless, the minds of multitudes of Christians seem to be clouded in regard to the application of the name Israel.
The origin of the confusion regarding Israel may be traced back to the early church fathers, who developed a doctrine that the church had replaced Israel in the purposes of God and was to be known as the “new Israel.” This kind of teaching was promulgated by about 150 A.D. By Justin Martyr and was later adopted and amplified by such celebrated figures as Irenaeus, Origen and Augustine. More and more, the Old Testament was interpreted in an “allegorical” way, which no longer did justice to the plain meaning of many texts.
Significantly, at about the same period the doctrine of the church as a whole was becoming progressively corrupted from the purity and simplicity of the apostolic revelation contained in the New Testament. The eventuall outcome of this process was the church of the Dark Ages, which was, for the most part, spiritually, morally and doctrinally corrupt
From about 400 A.D., Israel has regularly been used by Bible teachers, comentators and even translators as a synonym for the church. For example, a certain edition of the King James Version has the following headings at the top of the pages in latter chapters of Isaiah:
Chapter 43 opens with the words, “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not....” But the heading at the top of the page reads, “God comforteth the church with His promises” (italics added ).
Again, chapter 44 of Isaiah opens with the words, “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen....” But the heading at the top of the page reads, “The church comforted” (italics added).
Headings such as these, inserted in the text, produces an effect that is subliminal – that is, below the threshold of conscious awareness. Nevertheless, their cumulative impact over the centuries is beyond our power to calculate. Many generations of Christians have unconsciously assumed that the headings are part of the original text. But they are not! Supplied by editors many centuries later, they misrepresent what Isaiah is actually saying, applying to the church words that are specifically addressed by name to Israel.
Essential truth is usually simple. And the truth is, Israel is Israel, and the church is the church.
To recover the truth about the identity of Israel it is necessary to go back to the actual text of the New Testament and see how the apostles used the term Israel. This is the only legitimate basis for a scripturally accurate use of this term. Ever since the canon of Scripture was closed, no subsequent writer or preacher has been authorized to change the usuage established by the apostolic writers of the New Testament. Any writer or preacher who introduces a different application of the term Israel foreits the right to claim scriptural authority for what he or she has to say about Israel.
There are seventy-seven instances in the New Testament (NASB) where the word Israel or Israelite occur. After examining them all, one can rightfully conclude that the apostles never used the word Israel to describe the church.
Nor does the phrase the new Israel occur anywhere in the New Testament. Preachers and teachers who use that phrase should take care to define their use of it. They should also state it is not found in the Bible.
("The Destiny of Israel and the Church: Destinies Once Again Beginning to Converge" – Derek Prince – 1992, 2007. Derek Prince Ministries, P.O. Box 19501, Charlotte, NC, USA. 13-15, Chapter 1 – “The Destiny of Israel And The Church”)