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Bible verses about Israel of God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 37:6-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Genesis, Jacob clearly understood that he was the sun, his wife was the moon, and his twelve children were the stars. This is the root of the nation of Israel. In Revelation, these symbols are used for two reasons. One is to signify the root of the woman portrayed there, that she is Israelitish: sun, moon, stars—Jacob, Rachel, and the twelve sons. But the sun, moon, and stars also have a secondary meaning: to indicate glory. She is a glorious woman—one that can be associated with the glorious things in the heaven—the sun, moon, and stars.

Note this allusion to glory because, as God is looking at Israel at this time—that is, in the prophetic sense, in the time within the prophecies—Israel is glorious. Israel's beginning was glorious—glorious as the heavenly bodies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Leviticus 11:44-47  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Both sanctification and holiness imply being "different" or "set apart" for a special purpose. God instituted His law of clean and unclean to show the difference between His people and the nations around them. Paul calls the church "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). I Peter 1:13-16 shows very clearly that Christians, spiritual Israelites, now have a responsibility to be holy as God is.

Staff
Clean and Unclean Meats


 

Leviticus 27:30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first tithe is holy to God and must be used to support the commission God has given His ministry in a way similar to that of the Levitical priesthood (I Corinthians 9:11-14). Jesus confirms that tithing continues, but now God through Christ has made a better covenant with His people, who are no longer limited to the physical nation of Israel. He is now working through His church, the spiritual "Israel of God." Through tithing, God provides abundance for every good work.

Martin G. Collins
Tithing: First Tithe


 

Deuteronomy 4:6-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

National Israel was to set a godly example, by which it would teach the nations the value of God's way of life. This was a basic role of ancient Israel, and indeed remains a key job of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). Members of today's true church bear the responsibility to be exemplars, as the apostle Peter asserts in I Peter 2. Peter, echoing Paul's comments in Philippians 3:20 that we have our citizenship in heaven, not in this world, reminds God's people that they are pilgrims in this world. As real as our alien status is, however, it does not abrogate our responsibility to walk morally before the peoples of this world.

Charles Whitaker
Today's Christianity (Part One): Christianity Goes Global


 

1 Kings 18:31  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here appears "the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob" again. We never seem to stray very far from God's identification with Israel. In Galatians 6:16, the church itself is called "the Israel of God." God identifies Himself, not just with physical Israel, but with spiritual Israel. The stones used to prepare the altar are, in this case, representative of physical Israel. And in the time of the book of Revelation, the time of the end, those stones will be made up of spiritual Israel (see Revelation 7:4-8; 12:1; 21:12).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

2 Kings 17:14-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This was Israel's great sin, typified as prostitution: debasing themselves and God through the adoption and practice of the way of the heathen, and rejecting the way, providence, and sovereignty of God for something far inferior, corrupting, and shameful.

In the midst of His law, God warns Israel—and thus us as the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)—that to do things as the heathens do them constitutes harlotry. His terminology is in His instructions to Israel in Leviticus 20:2-8 is extremely clear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great


 

Psalm 24:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 6 tells us that Jesus Christ is the head of the church. It may not appear so at first glance, but remember that the church is the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). Remember, too, that another name for Israel is Jacob. "Generation" is poorly translated; it should read "congregation." This verse, then, could read, "This is the congregation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face." This is telling us that, because Jesus died, rose, and ascended to heaven, it is now possible for there to be a congregation of those who seek His face—the Israel of God!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Christ's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension


 

Isaiah 40:9-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God commands Zion (a type of the church) to lift up its voice to reveal Him to the people. In His ensuing description of Himself, God proclaims Himself as the almighty, all-wise Creator. He has such incomparable power and wisdom that the combined might and intelligence of all nations are as nothing before Him. In our childish vanity, we think of ourselves as being of some account, but we are so insignificant that, compared to Him, all humanity combined is less than nothing and worthless! Considering this testimony, whose law should take precedence—God's or man's?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Isaiah 48:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These people were standing in, that is, relying on, trusting in, the name of their bearers—both physically and spiritually. Physically, they bore the name of Israel. Spiritually, they bore the name of God. But God is complaining, here, that their actions did not live up to either the majesty of their physical or their spiritual names.

This is a warning both to physical Israel and to the Israel of God, as the church is plainly pointed out to be in Galatians 6:16. If we, who have taken (or bear) the name of God, use the name of God in any way that denies the true meaning or character of God, we are either breaking the third commandment, coming awfully close to breaking it, or we are on our way to doing so. It is interesting that the prophecies contain a great deal of revelation along this line.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Isaiah 66:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The New Testament shows that God has not broken His pattern. A new Israel is being formed—a people from all ethnic backgrounds. The Kingdom of God is expanding through the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)! This ties directly into Revelation 19 and the Marriage of the Lamb, because it is this Israel—the Israel of God—the spiritual organism consisting of people of all nations, that will marry Christ, the Lamb.

We can see a progression. First, there is one man—Jacob—whose name was changed to Israel. He was chosen by God, even though his brother was firstborn. Next, the descendants of Israel were chosen from the nations of the world, even though other nations were larger, greater, and stronger. Then, as God's plan takes off with the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the giving of the Holy Spirit, God first chooses from among the Israelites and then from all ethnic groups, choosing and putting them into the Body of Christ, though He says the members of His church are foolish, weak, and base.

So the Israel of God is formed to marry Jesus Christ. This is why Gentiles have to become Israelites. In fact, all of us have to become real Israelitesspiritual Israelites—even though we may be genetically "of Israel."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Hosea 12:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A similitude is a similarity, a comparison, a likeness, a shadow—essentially the same as a parable. Paul says all the Old Testament accounts are written for our understanding today. Hosea writes that the prophets spoke to us in similitudes or similarities. Thus, what happened to Israel and Judah in the prophecies applies in principle to the church today, the New Testament "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). Further, what is occurring in the church today is similar to what is occurring and prophesied to occur in the physical nations of Israel. It may not unfold in exactly the same detail, but very similarly. What understanding this concept opens up to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear!

Staff
Biblical Symbolism


 

Hosea 14:6-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

By some accounts, the scent of the olive tree is not so good, so the symbolism switches back to the cedar tree, as well as to the frankincense tree and the many other trees and plants that made the mountains of Lebanon smell so wonderful.

Revelation 5:8 describes the prayers of the saints as incense, and the church is called a garden of spices in Song of Songs 4:12, 14. Likewise, our spiritual sacrifices carry a sweet aroma to God (Genesis 8:21). When we live a life of obedience to God, as we strive to do now, and when Israel will do so in God's Kingdom, it pleases God as a beautiful perfume is pleasing.

The first part of Hosea 14:7 reads, "Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like the vine." "His shadow" might refer to God, but "his branches," "his beauty," and "his fragrance" (verse 6), refer to Israel, so "his shadow" must also. The whole phrase, "dwell under his shadow," denotes protection and reviving, restoration under shelter from adversity. Everyone has sought relief from the harsh rays of the sun in the shade of a tree, just as most have run under the spreading branches of a tree to escape a sudden shower. So will the nation of Israel be a refuge in that time, a fellowship of restoration under the blessings of God.

Those who live within that refuge "shall return"; they will grow again and again like a perennial plant. A lesson for us is that the shadow cast by the church, the spiritual "Israel of God," provides protection and growth. Over the centuries, God has called many into His church, but unfortunately, a great many did not stay. When the sun slipped behind a cloud or when the storm abated, many left the safety of the shadow. Some, however, choose to dwell there, never again leaving the spiritual safety of God's church.

It is these who "shall be revived like grain" and "grow like the vine." Grain, when it is sown, first dies and then revives (I Corinthians 15:35-44), a wonderful analogy of the resurrection of both the firstfruits and those of the White Throne Judgment. These revived ones will "grow like the vine," that is, produce fruit that is pleasing and glorifying to God (John 15:1-8).

Mike Ford
Be There!


 

Matthew 10:5-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Matthew 15:24, He says of His own commission, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Christ sent His apostles only to the scattered Israelites, most of whom had migrated into Europe centuries before. Acts 2:39 shows that they were not sent even to every last one of "the lost sheep" of Israel! Peter says, "For the promise [of the gift of the Holy Spirit] is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off [geographically and in time], as many as the Lord our God will call." Thus, the Father limits the preaching of the gospel to those He calls! The apostle urges them to save themselves from this "perverse generation," that is, those who were not offered God's Spirit (verse 40).

As we saw, Christ said that He was not sent to the Gentiles. So why did He send Paul to the Gentiles? (Romans 11:13). Is that not a contradiction? No, Christ does not contradict Himself. It was prophesied. Paul's commission was in addition to the other apostles' work; it did not negate or replace their going to Israel, for even Paul's commission included preaching to Israel (Acts 9:15).

The main thrust of the gospel is the work among the descendants of Israel, not the Gentiles! The world would have us believe that God stopped working with the "Jews," and the Gentiles became His chosen people. Nothing could be further from the truth! He sent only one apostle to the Gentiles but all the others to the people of Israel!

In Romans 9—11, Paul clearly explains why Christ sent him to preach among Gentiles. Because His own nation, the Jews (as well as the other tribes of Israel), rejected Jesus their Savior, He called a new people as the "Israel of God" (Romans 9:1-8; Galatians 6:16). God is very resourceful!

Paul quotes Moses, who prophesied of the Israelites' failure to keep faith with God. "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will anger you by a foolish nation" (Romans 10:19). Paul concludes: "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:11).

That is why Paul was sent to preach to Gentiles. Romans 11:17-26 shows that God broke Israelite branches off the Abrahamic family tree because they did not believe Him. In their place He grafted in believing Gentiles, making them children of Abraham (see Galatians 3:29). In the future, God will graft back in the broken-off Israelites (Romans 11:23)!

The time of Israel's regrafting begins when God adds the "fullness of the Gentiles" to the church. This "fullness of the Gentiles" must be a very small number in comparison to all those called into the church. God tells Ezekiel, "For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, NOT TO MANY PEOPLE of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you" (Ezekiel 3:5-6). The church has always been a "little flock" and the Gentiles in it even fewer.

Staff
'Go Ye Therefore Into All the World...'


 

Matthew 13:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These two parables are somewhat similar. There is a man and a treasure, and after he finds it, he goes and sells everything he has and buys the treasure. These two parables are universally thought to be positive parables, unlike the first four.

We have already interpreted two of the symbols found in verse 44—"the field" and "the man." We find in verse 37 that the one who sows good seed is "the son of man." Wherever the term "man" shows up in these parables, it tends to mean "Christ." The "Son of Man" is obviously Christ, and "man" in these two parables is also Christ. In verse 38, Jesus says the field is "the world." In these parables, "treasure" is found in the world, and a "man," Christ, is doing something with it.

How is "treasure" used in Scripture? Obviously, the literal meaning of "treasure" is what first comes to mind: Jewels, gold, silver, other precious metals, art, and fine clothing would be considered "treasure." But this is a parable, and a parable is metaphorical. The symbol must mean something other than just a jewel, a chest full of coins, or a collection of fine art. How is "treasure" used metaphorically in the Bible?

In Exodus 19:5, God says that if Israel "will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people." Psalm 135:4 says, "The LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure." Notice also Malachi 3:16-17:

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. "They shall be Mine," says the LORD of hosts, "on the day that I make them My jewels."

The margin on "My jewels" is literally "special treasure."

We see the same thing in the New Testament. I Peter 2:9-10 says:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Notice the progression of identity here. First, this "special treasure" was Israel, the one God made a covenant with on Mount Sinai. In the Psalms, He calls His "special treasure" specifically "Israel" and "Jacob." In Malachi, God describes His "special treasure" as "those who fear His name" and "those who speak one to another" about His way. In I Peter 2 it is the elect are His "special people." It has gone from "Israel," to a little bit more general—"those who fear His name"—to specific again—"His special people, a holy nation."

In Matthew 13, the "treasure" is the church, which fits all of these descriptions. It is spiritual Israel, "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). The church is composed of those among all the people of the earth who truly fear His name. And because God called us out of the world separately and individually, the church is now a people who were not a people.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure


 

Matthew 21:33-44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses contain another parable to the leaders of the Jews, where Jesus uses the example of a householder leaving his vineyard with a husbandman or manager. God had left these leaders of physical Israel in Moses' seat, but they beat His true servants and even rejected His Son. In response, God would reject these husbandmen (verses 41-45)! The chief priests and Pharisees perceived He was talking of them (verse 45). He was removing them from office! They would no longer mean anything as physical leaders of Israel, for Christ would give their authority to others! This enraged them to the point of trying to kill Christ on the spot (verse 46).

Those who had been in charge and seemed to be first in importance would be last in order of both resurrection and influence! Those who had been in the first marriage with Christ and rejected Him were no longer of any spiritual value until the second resurrection! They were being supplanted by a New Testament church whose leaders would now be in charge. Yes, God would offer them salvation later on, but not in the time and order they expected!

Staff
Who Are the 'Guests at the Wedding'?


 

Matthew 21:43-46  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Israelites had been God's chosen people, and He took away this privilege, giving that blessing to a special people—the church—who would bear the fruits of righteousness (Acts 28:28). Jesus alludes to Himself as the Stone and describes the escalating consequences of opposing Him (Isaiah 8:14-15; Matthew 8:12). Those who oppose Him out of ignorance or weakness will suffer harm, but if they willfully reject Christ, the Stone will crush them into dust and scatter them in the wind (Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45; Matthew 3:12). This warning was not lost on the chief priests, scribes, and elders, intensifying their enmity toward Jesus and confirming His accurate portrayal of them in the parable. It reveals the authority of Christ as the Son, Heir, and Judge, as well as the unenviable fate of those who reject Him.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers


 

John 8:42  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

They saw themselves as the sons of God due to the fact that they were the physical descendants of Abraham. Yet, Jesus rejects this by saying the proof that they are the sons of God is whether they love Him. If this was true for the Jews, it is also true for us. Though we may be sons of Abraham racially because we are part of the tribes of Israel, it fits us just as it fit the Jews. Abraham may be our father, but unless we have the love of God, He is not our spiritual Father. We find proof of our love for God in that we love Christ. His own advice: "If you love Me, keep the commandments" (John 14:15).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Loving Christ and Revelation 2:1-7


 

Romans 2:28-29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most commentaries will interpret these verses correctly, as it is so obvious what Paul means. Much of the Bible is written in what can be styled as "different levels." In terms of ceremonies, there is a physical and a spiritual level. The ceremonies have not been done away, but they have been raised—elevated—from their physical application to a spiritual application.

Many names and words carry a literal meaning as well as a symbolic meaning, implying that God intends a spiritual application too. Jesus used many parables in this dual way quite effectively. In addition, many prophecies have both a literal, former fulfillment and a final, latter fulfillment. It is easy to see that there is a physical level and a spiritual level to this subject of "the Israel of God" (see Galatians 6:16).

God's promises to Abraham have both a "race" (national) and a "grace" (spiritual) aspect to their fulfillments. Thus, Abraham's physical descendants—Israel—are greatly blessed with material wealth, but all of mankind is spiritually blessed through Abraham's one great Descendant, Jesus Christ, and so the grace aspect is gradually being fulfilled as each judgment unfolds.

Here in Romans 2:28-29, Paul is using "Jew" in its spiritual sense. In this sense, "Jew" includes any converted person—even a Gentile. It indicates the church as the body of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18), when we recognize what is written in Hebrews 7:14: "It is evident that our Lord was of the tribe of Judah." He—Jesus Christ—was a Jew by birth. Therefore, since He was a Jew, and we are part of "the body of Christ" in the Bible's imagery—therefore we are spiritual Jews. And because we are spiritual Jews, we are spiritual Israelites.

It does not matter what race or ethicity we are. If we are converted, we are a Jew in the eyes of God because we are part of Christ's body. That is the spiritual application. If we are a Jew, we are an Israelite too, and because the promises were given to Israel, the descendants of Abraham, the promises then apply to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 3)


 

Romans 3:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul extends the meaning of oracles here in two ways—in content and audience:

The content of the message includes the entire Law. Since the general context is circumcision (see chapter 2), we can conclude that the oracles given to the fathers included the covenants and hence the promises that attended them. The context does not limit the oracles to the revelation of God in the Pentateuch, but can include the Writings and Prophets as well.

The audience of the message includes those outside national Israel. Just before he writes of the oracles being committed to the Jews, Paul informs us that "he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; . . . but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly" (Romans 2:28-29). Paul is speaking of the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). In this regard, Peter makes an instructive statement in his conversation with the gentile Cornelius:

The word [logos] which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John [the Baptist] preached. (Acts 10:36-37)

Peter came to recognize that the oracles of God are for all men, God showing "no partiality" (verse 34).

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God


 

Romans 9:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"It is not that the word of God has taken no effect" must be understood in light of why he is writing this. The silent question is, "What about Israel?" as God seems to be setting Israel aside. It appears as if God has been a failure in His dealings with Israel. He gave them the Covenant, but the people did not want to keep it. But Paul argues that, no, Israel is not being set aside. He is saying, "No, you don't really understand what's going on." It is not that the word of God has taken no effect.

"For they are not all Israel who are of Israel." Who is a Jew? Who is really part of Israel? Only those whose heart has been circumcised (Romans 2:29)! If a Gentile is circumcised in the heart, in God's eyes he is an Israelite!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Romans 9:7-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The children of the promise are counted for the seed" means Abraham's seed, and "the children" are Esau and Jacob. Jacob was chosen or elected by God, but Esau was not. So through whom would God work? Obviously, it was Jacob, who on the surface was the weaker of the two—perhaps in character and certainly bodily. The question immediately arises, "Is it fair of God to do this?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Romans 9:22-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Today, there are between four and five hundred million Israelites on earth, and out of all of those people—Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the democracies of northwestern Europe—only a tiny remnant is really Israel!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Romans 10:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith does not "come" through natural genetic processes. Faith truly has a vital link with blood—the blood of Christ, "whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith" (Romans 3:25). But an individual does not inherit faith through a natural bloodline; God did not see fit to encode faith in human DNA, so that it could be passed to offspring.

Christ's disciples, in asking Him to "increase our faith" (Luke 17:5), exhibit their understanding that God, not genetics, is the ultimate source of faith. Because "God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34; see Romans 2:11), He has no proclivity to limit His giving and increasing of faith to a particular racial stock. For that reason, faith as a characteristic does not "belong" to a particular race as, say, a set of facial features is peculiar to a given race.

In His time, then, God made faith available to the Gentiles and with it, spiritual salvation, which has its taproot in faith:

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, . . . [so] that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14).

Peter says as much to the church gathered in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:17-18, he connects "the gift" given to the Gentiles with belief—faith—in Christ:

"If therefore God gave them [Gentiles] the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard these things they became silent: and they glorified God, saying, "Then has God also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."

God's Israel crosses natural racial or ethnic distinctions; the faithful of any race make up the Israel of God. These are the faithful who receive "the blessing of Abraham" (Galatians 3:14).

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

Romans 11:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We begin to see a major reason why God chose to provide salvation as He has. In short, He feels that more can be produced toward His purpose by doing it this way than by Him entering into another covenant with another group of people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

1 Corinthians 3:6-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage begins by seeming to say that God sends only the ministry to labor in His behalf. However, as Paul proceeds, the context reaches out to embrace all the called of God by admonishing us to take heed how we build the Temple, the church of God. I Corinthians 12 leaves no doubt that we are all members of the Body of Christ, and it is the Body of Christ that is sent forth to witness for God in the world. The Body of Jesus Christ is the Israel of God in this New Testament period (Galatians 6:16).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

Galatians 3:25-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since Christ has come, the Old Covenant rules and regulations that isolated Israel from other ethnic groups are no longer needed. Israel no longer needed a guardian. The time had come to put away the need for the practices that separated Israel from other nations and caused such hostility between the Jews and the Gentiles. Christ had brought a totally new approach. The church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), is a spiritual organism made up of people of all races and nationalities who repent and keep the spiritual laws of God as Jesus had magnified them.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?


 

Galatians 4:24-26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Webster's Dictionary defines allegory as "to speak figuratively, a symbolic representation." Unger's Bible Dictionary defines it as expressing or explaining one thing under the image of another and showing a second and deeper meaning than would seem apparent. Again, it is similar to a parable.

Paul—addressing the New Testament church, which he calls "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16)—shows that the Old Covenant points to and helps explain the New. He writes that Jerusalem is a figure, forerunner, type, and present-day symbol of the New Covenant and church today (see also Hebrews 12:22-23, Romans 9:1-8; I Peter 2:9). We can then read both the history and prophecy regarding Jerusalem, the physical capital of Israel, and apply much of it to the church, the spiritual "Jerusalem, . . . mother of us all."

Staff
Biblical Symbolism


 

Galatians 6:15-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Walk according to this rule means "understand and apply this principle."

After Jacob's name was changed to Israel, through the centuries Israel gradually became a code name for the called and chosen of God who had made a covenant with Him. Here in Galatians 6, that code name is transferred openly and clearly to the church, and Paul attaches the prepositional phrase "of God" to show possession to differentiate it from the physical nation also named "Israel." God is creating a new nation—a New Covenant people—whose citizenship is in heaven and whose people owe their loyalty to the Kingdom of God, its laws, and its purposes.

The Israel of God—the remnant, the elect, the vessels of mercy, the children of promise—is a spiritual body, the Body of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. In one sense, there is no nationality, for we are being transformed into a new "nationality"—the Kingdom of God! God is doing a new thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Galatians 6:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Characteristically, God's true church is a spiritual organism whose members, with God's help, will ultimately prevail over their own sinful natures, over the world, and over Satan. The Israel of God, like Jacob, prevails with God. Christ certainly remembered His wrestling match with the unrelenting Jacob when He inspired Paul to call His church "the Israel of God."

Charles Whitaker
The Israel of God


 

Galatians 6:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As members of the God Family—children of God, we will be God, ruling as He would rule. Spiritually speaking, we will be the kings God promised would descend from Jacob (Genesis 35:12). Yes, Israel is an apt designation for God's church; the Israel of God will rule as God.

Viewed in the present tense or in the future, we in the true Israel of God have a great deal in common with our patriarch Jacob. Like him, we will eventually have a new name (Revelation 3:12). Like him, we struggle to overcome. And like him, those who remain faithful among us will someday prevail, qualifying to rule as God—princes forever with Him.

Charles Whitaker
The Israel of God


 

Ephesians 1:13-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This chapter extols the uniqueness of the church, which Paul refers to as "the purchased possession." Israel became God's personal possession through the destruction of Egypt, and more importantly, with the killing of Egypt's firstborn as the price for Israel's liberty. God "purchased" Israel and its liberties by this means.

What we see taking form is a separate and unique people. Even though all mankind owes its existence to God as their Creator, Israel and the church are both separate and unique because they belong to God in a way other people and nations do not. Amos 3:2 declares, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." God purchased these people at awesome cost and thus came into possession of them.

When Israel became His property, it gave them certain liberties. So it is with us, but we receive more besides. Among other things regarding the uniqueness of the church, Paul explains that its members have been set apart (redeemed and freed from the rest of mankind and its ways) and sealed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The term sealed is important because it embraces, not only the sense of ownership, but also security and guarantee. Individual seals were unique, used on documents to identify the sender and to render the content secure from prying eyes and theft, and so they were a guarantee that the contents would reach the intended destination.

God's children may look no different on the outside, but they have been given something inside, something spiritual, that makes them different from others and special to God. They are different only because of something God has done, which also makes them His personal, treasured possession.

John 1:12-13 declares, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." That "something" is the right or power (KJV) to believe the Word of God, which opens our minds and imparts to us the knowledge of God and His purpose, faith, the fear of God, the love of God, and so much more.

Billions of people have access to the Bible. They read it and may even attend church and call themselves Christian, but they then ignore and disobey huge amounts of it, thus not living by every Word of God. This is actual evidence that those who are part of God's special treasure do indeed possess something that sets them apart and motivates them to obey more completely.

Deuteronomy 7:6 begins a section that reveals one of the major reasons why God has done this. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." Segullah appears again as "special treasure," but along with segullah is another, more familiar term that identifies being a special treasure as an aspect of a larger subject: the blessings and responsibilities of holiness.

Holy literally means "set apart." Being a special treasure has set us apart from other people. Others, without this advantage, are not set apart. When this principle from the Old Testament is combined with Ephesians 1:13-14, we can understand that the blessing of having the Spirit of God makes us special, different, and holy (Romans 8:9).

This occurs because, in God's self-revelation, His Spirit imparts faith and the love of God beyond what the natural mind is capable. It is becoming clear that being blessed as a special, holy people imposes responsibilities on us that we are required—indeed commanded—to meet. The standards within this relationship are high, requiring gifts and growth to meet them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

Ephesians 2:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice two important factors he links to hope in Ephesians 2:12. First, in the time before God called the Ephesian Gentiles into a relationship with Him, they were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise."

The commonwealth of Israel could be either the nation or the church because under the Old Covenant ancient Israel established a relationship with God, received a small measure of His promises, and possessed the hope of the Messiah. However, the primary meaning here is the church; those who have made the New Covenant with God are the Israel of God and a holy nation (Galatians 6:16; I Peter 2:9). The New Covenant contains God's confirmed promises—confirmed in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

Being part of ancient Israel under the Old Covenant did not give a person access to many promises that would have given him reason to hope. The Old Covenant promised no forgiveness of sin, no access to God, no promise of the Holy Spirit, and no promise of eternal and everlasting life, all of which we have. We have continuing, never-ending hopes because the New Covenant ensures a continuous relationship. Our relationship necessarily involves the other part of Ephesians 2:12: Before our calling, we were also without God in the world. Our hope is not merely in the fact that we have made a covenant, but more importantly, with whom we made it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

Hebrews 3:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Hebrews 3:12, the apostle Paul reports of Israel's "evil heart of unbelief," the fountain, the source, that gave birth to her irrational, erratic, unreliable spiritual and moral behavior. She could not be trusted to remain firm to her commitment to be faithful in keeping the commandments and thus God's way of life. Had the making of the covenant been a literal marriage between two humans, her conduct would have been as God called it, harlotry. However, this was an agreement between a holy, spiritual God and the human nation He chose.

Though she transgressed every commandment in multiple ways, collectively, the spiritual sin through which her unfaithfulness is most frequently demonstrated is gross idolatry. Israel simply serves herself, following the whim of the moment, so that she might "have fun." Her lack of belief grants her nature free rein to exhibit itself in the self-endowed liberty to follow the lust of her flesh, the lust of her eyes, and the pride of life. She rejects her divine Husband as her Ruler because she wants a king "just like" the other nations.

Except for the occasional times when Israel had good leadership, she conducted her affairs, whether personal, domestic, or international, in the Babylonian manner. Israel, despite her great advantages, became just another kingdom of this world. While God has remained faithful to His agreements and promises through the centuries, she has maintained a hypocritical "God's people" stance toward the world, palming herself off as a "Christian nation."

With the founding of the church following Christ's resurrection, God's spiritual focus turned to the church. Having made the New Covenant with God, our charge now is to be faithful while living surrounded by Babylon the Great. Though it is literally physically impossible, we have the responsibility to come out of her, and we can come out spiritually by being faithful to God and His commandments. We must not fail as Israel did, for the stakes for us are much greater. The New Covenant is a better covenant than Israel made; it contains better promises, enabling us a much better opportunity to be faithful and grow. However, those greater advantages also render us more responsible than even Israel, God's only chosen nation, because the church of God is God's only chosen church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Revelation 12:1-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Chapter 12 is another inset chapter, in which John sees another wondrous vision. Its events do not follow those in chapter 11 at all: Chapter 11 ends with the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the announcing of the return of Jesus Christ, while chapter 12 suddenly introduces a brand new vision. Rather, chapter 12 is a highly condensed history of the true church within Israel, the woman.

God begins the record all the way back in the time of Jacob. In Genesis 37:9, Joesph dreams that the sun, moon, and stars all bow to him. Revelation 12:1 borrows from that vision to help us understand that the true church has its roots in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. It is, first of all, an Israelitish church, but its real roots are in heaven—where the sun, moon, and stars are. God is figuratively, symbolically pointing in the direction of the origins of the true church.

Chapter 12 unfolds a highly condensed history of that church. It takes us through the rebellion of Lucifer and Jesus Christ being born of the woman. We find the Dragon attempting and succeeding in killing the Child, who is, of course, Jesus Christ. However, He is resurrected, so no really serious damage occurs to the Child born of the woman—Israel.

In verse 6, the woman flees into a wilderness. This takes us in time sequence up through the Middle Ages—through the Inquisitions, Crusades, and tribulations of the times where the church hid in the mountains, hills, and Alpine valleys of central Europe. Then, in verses 7-12, the narrative digresses somewhat, showing us something yet to occur: a war in heaven between Satan and his demons and Michael and the angels.

At the end of the chapter, we find the church again experiencing another, far more intensive tribulation that will be not only intense but much encapsulated in time. One part of the church will be protected, and another part will undergo a great deal of persecution.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 12:4-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is clear that Israel (the woman) gave birth to the Messiah (Jesus Christ) because He is the One who is described here who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. He was put to death, but then He ascended to heaven. Plainly, the woman is Israel, the child is Christ, and we all know who the dragon is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

 




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