Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
As with Paul and Peter, the writer of Hebrews reveals that the nation of Israel has its fulfillment in Christ and His Church. The nation of Israel has its fulfillment as a spiritual nation, a spiritual Israel. In other words, the Church is the New Israel of the New Covenant. This has always been God’s ultimate plan for Israel, for His people. It’s always been God’s plan that Israel have its consummation in His Son in and those who are in Him, both individually and corporately.
It’s not that God has rejected Israel, but that He continues the seed (spiritual seed) of Abraham through Christ and faith in Him. Together, both believing Jews and believing Gentiles, are the true Israel of God — those who “share the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Ro 4:16). In Christ, Israel is not an physical or ethnic nation, but a spiritual nation (1 Pe 2:4-10; Ro 9:6-8; Gal 3:14-16, 25-29). Together, as the corporate body of Christ, we are the Israel of God. The Church doesn’t replace Israel, it’s the continuation of it as the spiritual offspring of Abraham.
(Hebrews 2:16-17) – 16 For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
The “seed of Abraham” refers to the spiritual seed of Abraham….and more specifically, to Christ Himself:
(Gal 3:16, 27-29) – 16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.
We have to allow the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament. Christ is the true seed of Abraham, and in Christ we are the seed (offspring) of Abraham. In Christ, we are all the spiritual seed of Abraham, and together, we are the spiritual Israel of God.
That Israel would become a spiritual nation, has always been the plan of God, which always had His Son in view as the ultimate and complete fulfillment of the covenant promises to Israel. Furthermore, all the prophecies regarding Israel are also fulfilled in Him. Therefore, we as His Church, are the completed Israel of God.
Lest you think this “seed” (offspring) applies only to salvation, and not to the nation of Israel, as Dispensationalism teaches, the writer of Hebrews corrects that point of view in the very next verses:
(Hebrews 3:1-6) – 1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus; 2 who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also was Moses in all his house. 3 For he hath been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by so much as he that built the house hath more honor than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some one; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken; 6 but Christ as a son, over his house; whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end.
This originally referred to God’s house of the Old Testament, which was the house of Israel, of which Moses was leader. However, here we see that we who are in Christ (“holy brethren”), are the house of God: “whose house are we.”
This is exactly what Peter reveals:
(1 Pet 2:5-10) – 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 7 For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; 8 and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Peter reveals that the true house of God in the New Covenant are all those who “believe” in Christ — who is the “chief cornerstone” of this house, which is a “spiritual house.” He refers to us corporately – both believing Jews and believing Gentiles – not only as the house and “people of God,” but also as a “holy nation.” This all reveals that the true nation of Israel are those who are in Christ, which make up the Church. Peter reveals that the nation of Israel has its continuation in Christ as a spiritual nation, which is the Church.
This is further confirmed in the following passage (verses 8-12):
(Hebrews 8:6-13) – 6 But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; For they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them: And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his fellow-citizen, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: For all shall know me, From the least to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and their sins will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away.
The writer of Hebrews talks more about the New Covenant in Christ in chapter 10:
(Hebrews 10:8-23) – 8 Saying above, Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein (the which are offered according to the law), 9 then hath he said, Lo, I am come to do thy will. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest indeed standeth day by day ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, the which can never take away sins: 12 but he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also beareth witness to us; for after he hath said, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws on their heart, and upon their mind also will I write them; then saith he, 17 And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 and having a great priest over the house of God; 22 let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water, 23 let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised:
Hebrews 8:8-12 and 10:16-17 are quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34:
(Jer 31:31-34) – 31 Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.
The writer of Hebrews applies this OT prophecy about Israel to all who believe in Jesus of the New Covenant. Dispensationalists view these two passages in Hebrews as referring primarily to the nation of Israel.
Note what William Macdonald says in his commentary:
The writer now quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 to show that in the Jewish Scriptures God had promised a New Covenant. The whole argument revolves around the word new. If the old was sufficient and satisfactory, why introduce a new one? Yet God specifically promised to make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
As mentioned previously, the new covenant has to do primarily with the nation of Israel and not with the church. It will find its complete fulfillment when Christ comes back to reign over the repentant and redeemed nation. In the meantime some of the blessings of the covenant are enjoyed by all believers. Thus when the Savior passed the cup of wine to His disciples, He said, “This is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:25. Henderson quotes the following:
“And so we distinguish between the primary interpretation to Israel, and the secondary, spiritual application to the Church today. We now enjoy in the power of the Holy Spirit the blessings of the new covenant, and yet there will be still further and future manifestations for Israel according to God’s promise.”
Dispensationalism teaches that these passages in Hebrews – as quoted from Jeremiah – regarding the “New Covenant” must be applied to and fulfilled by the nation of Israel “primarily”….and only “secondarily” to the Church. Furthermore, they believe that the primary fulfillment of this prophecy is still future and applies only to the nation of Israel.
May I say, this is such a confused viewpoint!
I believe that without a positional bias, I think it’s clear that the writer of Hebrews is revealing that the fulfillment of that Jeremiah prophecy has already been completely fulfilled NOW in Christ. The context of these two passages of Hebrews – and indeed, the whole book – shouts it! Context is everything! Please go back and read the context of these two passages yourself in the wider context of the book of Hebrews. Dispensationalism completely misses the whole point that Christ Himself is the New Covenant. This also applies to all who are in Him – both believing Jews and believing Gentiles – and that Israel is in its COMPLETE form now. In other words, God’s plan for Israel is now complete in Christ and His Church, which was completely fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Church began.
Let’s take a closer look at the context of these two passages of Hewbrews:
(Hebrews 8:6) – 6 But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises.
The New Covenant is now and applies to all…..completely:
(Hebrews 8:10) – 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them: And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
Note the phrase, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Now hear again Peter:
(1 Pet 2:9-10) – 9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
All believers in Christ are the people of God. God only has one people — not two. The notion that God has two peoples, not only misses the point of the New Covenant of Christ, but is very confusing. He has always had just one people. It confuses everything when you start talking about “two peoples” of God.
(Hebrews 10:9-10,14) – 9 then hath he said, Lo, I am come to do thy will. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. 10 By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
The New Covenant is both now and applies to all who are in Christ. All of us who “have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” make up the “house of Israel,” which is the Church, which, as we’ve already seen, is confirmed by Peter. In Christ, in the New Covenant, there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, as Paul states plainly:
(Ro 10:11-12) – 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him:
(Gal 3:23-28) – 23 But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.
I have dealt with the passages of Paul in depth in my series on “Israel and the Church,” but we need to revisit Paul here to give proper perspective to what the writer of Hebrews is revealing.
In the above Romans verses, Paul states that there is “no distinction between Jew and Greek.” In the Galatians passage, note that Paul refers to “the law,” which was given to the nation of Israel. However, he’s addressing Gentile Christians. The fact that he’s addressing Gentiles and talking about Israel and the Law of the OT, indicates that it applies to them as well as to the Jews, which Paul goes on to explain (Gal 3:28-29).
The Law represented the nation of Israel, who were distinct from the Gentiles. However, Paul tells us that in Christ there is no distinction between the two groups. In Christ, “we are all sons of God.” In Christ, we are all the people of God – the one people of God in Christ.
Paul’s whole point is stated in verse 29 of our Galatians passage:
(Gal 3:29) – 3:29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.
What Paul reveals here, and in so many other places, is that all who belong to Christ are the seed (offspring) of Abraham. In other words, all believers combine to make up the true Israel of God in Christ. Corporately, we are the New Israel of the New Covenant. The distinction that once existed between the ethnic Jews of the nation of Israel and the Gentiles of all other nations before Christ, have been done away with in Christ. We are all one in Him.
In regard to the New Covenant, that the writer of Hebrews has all believers in view, (not just “primarily” the nation of Israel, and “secondarily” the Church – MacDonald), and is now completely fulfilled in Christ, is further confirmed by the following verses:
(Hebrews 7:20-25) – 20 And inasmuch as it is not without the taking of an oath 21 (for they indeed have been made priests without an oath; but he with an oath by him that saith of him, The Lord sware and will not repent himself, Thou art a priest for ever); 22 by so much also hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant. 23 And they indeed have been made priests many in number, because that by death they are hindered from continuing: 24 but he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable. 25 Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Jesus is the “surety (guarantee) of a better covenant,” referring to the New Covenant. Verse 25 reveals to whom this Covenant applies: All who “draw near unto God through him…”
The New Covenant doesn’t apply “primarily” to the nation of Israel, as Dispensationalism teaches; it applies to all! Thus all who place their faith in Christ become members of spiritual Israel, the “seed of Abraham.” Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ as a spiritual nation, which is made up of all believers in Christ, which is the Church. The book of Hebrews is a NEW TESTAMENT book, not an Old Testament book! Therefore, we cannot approach it or interpret it as though it were.
It’s through the “eternal covenant” (He 13:20; He 9:15) that all believers become “sheep” of the “shepherd”:
(Hebrews 13:20) – 20 Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus,
Collectively, we are one sheep with one Shepherd — both believing Jews and believing Gentiles, which make up spiritual Israel, the one people of God, which is the Church.
Why must we make things so difficult? Why can’t we just allow God’s Word to mean what it says? We must not allow positional bias to influence how we see Scripture. I believe that’s what we must do to miss what Paul and Peter and the writer of Hebrews says about the New Covenant of Christ. There is harmony between what these writers reveal about Israel and the Church. I think Dispensationalism is a rather forced theology, one that depends largely on an OT understanding about Israel. It forces one to make a distinction between Israel and the Church, where these NT writers do not.
Unless one already had it in their mind that God has one plan for Israel and a different plan for the Church, I don’t believe there’s any reasonable way that anyone could misunderstand what these NT writers reveal about the nature of Israel in Christ. All walls and peoples and nations are done away with in Him. Collectively, we are a whole new entity, a whole new creation (Eph 2:13-16). We are all the “offspring of Abraham” in Christ, which is spiritual in nature. Collectively, we are the spiritual Israel of God. All the spiritual offspring of Abraham (Ro 9:6-8) – both believing Jews and believing Gentiles – are “heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29).
The view that this distinction between Israel and the Church is removed only as it relates to salvation, can only be understood that way through the eyes of the OT, which is an approach that allows the greater light of the NT to be drowned out by the lessor light of the OT. The Old must always be interpreted according to the New. The NT explains the OT. Therefore, the revelation of the NT explains the covenant promises and prophecies relating to Israel of the OT.
Dispensationalism misses the whole point of the New Covenant, which is to unite everyone in Christ. It’s not that we’re simply united as Jews and Gentiles, but that in Christ we become a completely new entity, a completely new creation in Him, where there are no distinctions of peoples. In Christ, there is only one people of God. The nation of Israel of the OT was but a type and shadow of the spiritual nation that it would become in Christ — who fulfills all things pertaining to Israel.
The reason I bring Dispensationalism into the discussion so much, is because of the fact that it’s the view that’s held by a lot of Christians today. Since it has such a wide influence within the Church, I feel that it’s important to point out the weaknesses and inconsistencies of its position. Otherwise the reader isn’t getting the whole picture. I don’t believe it’s fair to the reader to avoid making comparisons when they can benefit from them. When teaching any doctrine of the Bible, it’s necessary to teach not only the correct interpretation, but also why other interpretations are incorrect. Without it, questions will still remain in the minds of many.