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Why Israel is Not a Type of the Church

This is a response to my “Reformed,” God-is-through-with-Israel family member (though he’ll not see this, his heart being uninterested in considering this subject) — yet it is nice to articulate and understand the position, for those who are curious about the matter.  This response is to the typical vague idea, without any specifics, that Israel is part of the “types and shadows” of the OT, and therefore obsolete now in the New Testament era.

First, though, it is necessary to observe definitions of terms, including: what “types” actually are (and see this article also)  — and types are not allegories.  Allegories, such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, are never found in the Bible.  The one place the word allegory is used in the Bible (in Galatians 4:24), the word translated as allegory in the KJV and ESV is actually the word for illustration — as used in the HCSB version.

A type (another word for “illustration” or “example”) has specific characteristics:  it is rooted in historical fact and includes correspondences between people, things (or institutions), or events.  Many things from Israel’s history are indeed types, such as its leaders as typical of the Messiah King, and especially events from the life of King David.  From a recent S. Lewis Johnson Matthew 2 sermon, as another example, Hosea shows how Israel’s exodus out of Egypt was a type of something that also happened in the life of Jesus Christ.  Types need not be restricted to only those which are explicitly pointed out in the New Testament — but they must still follow the pattern established by the definition above: a historical person, thing or event that has direct correspondence to something in the New Testament.

So the general argument that “Israel is a type and shadow and has no further meaning” is vague and meaningless.  For one thing, the topic of Israel as a nation is simply too broad to offer specific direct correspondence to any particular New Testament teaching.  To say Israel equals the Church makes no sense in typology, for where are the one-to-one likenesses and correspondences?  As just a few points here:  1)  Israel brought forth the Messiah.  The Church did not bring forth the Messiah — the Messiah brought forth the Church. (Matthew 16:18).  2)  Israel followed a specific code of law that they were placed under.  The Church was never placed under any code of law.  3)  Israel was separated from the nations and put in a special covenantal relationship with God.  Believers in the New Testament age are scattered among many different nations — by its very nature, the Church cannot be a covenant nation.  None of the nations in the world (except Israel) have ever been in a covenant relationship with God — rather, believers are living amongst the nations, those called by God living side-by-side with the non-elect in the various nations.

Now to additional scriptural reasons why Israel is not a type of the Church or of New Testament believers:

1.  Promises were made to Abraham, and later to David, concerning the nation of Israel — unilateral covenants with unconditional promises.  (Genesis 15:5, 18; Genesis 17:8; 2 Samuel 7:10).  The “types and shadows” rendered obsolete came from the Mosaic economy and its sacrificial system that pointed to Christ’s sacrifice.  This has nothing to do with the fact of ethnic Israel itself.

2.  Even in New Testament times, Israel and the Church, and Jews and Gentiles, are separate terms and continue their specific meanings.  Throughout the book of Acts, after the Church begins in Acts 2, the two groups are kept distinct.  The Apostle Paul in his epistles keeps the terms separate, always distinguishing between Gentiles and “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).  Romans 11 clearly makes distinction between three groups:  believing Jews, unbelieving Jews, and Gentiles.  Paul especially contrasts unbelieving and believing Israel, yet both are distinct from the Gentiles who are the wild olive branches that have been “grafted in” to the natural olive tree.

Then in Revelation we again see reference to Israel, even to the twelve tribes and their names:  Revelation 7:4-8.  In Revelation 21:12-13 we learn that the gates of the New Jerusalem have written upon them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Yes, the church gets its inclusion in verse 14, the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  But again, why continue the distinction between the two groups all the way through Acts, the New Testament Epistles, and Revelation, if Israel is an obsolete type and shadow?

3.  Israel is in their land.  Spurgeon, McCheyne, Jonathan Edwards and many other Christian preachers in centuries past read their Bibles and predicted that Israel would be regathered to their land — an idea scoffed at and thought impossible at the time.  Even John Reisinger, still happy to be an amillennialist, has admitted that several things about the amillennial position bother him — and this is one of those “problems.”

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