Spiritual Israel, Out of All Nations? Or Out of National Israel?, taken, in part from, by Ted R. Weiland, Mission to Israel, P.O. Box 248, Scottsbluff, NE 69363
Spiritualizing Israel (A Jewish deception, to deceive our Israelite people, so they can steal their inheritance - WM) A large segment of Judeo-Christianity is being taught that God no longer has a plan for “physical Israel” under the New Covenant (New Testament) and that He is now working with only a “spiritual Israel” doctrine:
“For ye (Christian Galatians) are all the children of God by faith in (the) Christ Yhshua. (Yhshua is the Hebrew spelling of our Savior’s name and is the author’s preference) For as many of you as have been baptized into (the) Christ have put on (the) Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all on in (the) Christ Hyshua. And if ye be (the) Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29; All Scriptures quoted from the King James Version, unless otherwise noted)
Many Judeo-Christians, thinking that Jews and Greeks are two separate races of people, conclude that God is no longer working with “physical Israel” under the New Covenant (New Testament), but with on a “spiritual Israel” (people from all races of mankind, non-Israelite and Israelites alike, who have been saved in Yhshua the Christ).
Leonard C. Lee in his book, “Clouds Over America,” wrote the following concerning physical Israelites under the New Covenant (New Testament);
“God rejected the Israelites as a nation (at the commencement of the New Covenant-Leonard C. Lee, Clouds Over America, (Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948) p. 71) The Israelites have now passed off the stage of action. (Leonard C. Lee, Clouds Over America, (Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948), p. 71
Their (Israelites) nationality (under the New Covenant) is of no significance in the ultimate purposes of God.” (Leonard C. Lee, Clouds Over America, (Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948) p. 71; See what a liar he is?)
Mr. Lee further concluded:
“Since God rejected the Israelites as a nation, we can look for fulfillment of His purposes only in spiritual Israel.” (Leonard C. Lee, Clouds Over America, (Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948) p. 71)
Mr. Lee then attempted to explain how this takes place, using Galatians 3:26-29 to support his claims:
“Those (of other races) who are grafted into Christ, the root, the true vine, will become spiritual Israel and will receive all the blessings and promises made to ancient Israel.” (Leonard C. Lee, Clouds Over America, (Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948) p. 75)
In his book “Just Before Dawn,” Cornelius Vanderbreggen Jr. wrote:
“Here (Galatians 3:26-29) are words addressed not to physical descendants of Abraham, but to saved Gentiles (Mr. Vanderbreggen means non-Israelites). They are informed that because of their faith in Jesus Christ they are Abraham’s seed. In other words, spiritually they are his descendants or his children, for they have believed in the same One (Yhshua) in Whose coming he (Braham) believed.” (Cornelius Vanderbreggen, Jr., Just Before Dawn, (Hiawassee, GA: Reapers Fellowship, 1988) p. 35)
Dr. Ed Moore wrote the following in his periodical “The Last Trump”:
“Hence, we can begin to see that being the children of Abraham has nothing to do with race (physical descendancy).” (Dr. Ed Moore, The Last Trump (Jan/Feb, 1991), p. 7)
Even the Catholics made the same claim. Pope Pius XI is quoted as saying:
“Spiritually, we (non-Israelite Catholics) are Semites (Israelites, because of faith in the Christ. (Pope Pius XI, the Point (October, 1958), p. 18)
As a minister, who once taught this “spiritual Israel” doctrine, I feel it is imperative to take a closer look at this passage and at the arguments employed by those trying to justify the teaching of a “spiritual Israel” under the New Covenant (New Testament). However, before scrutinizing this passage it must be understood that even “if” this particular passage does seem to spiritualize Israel, this one passage can “not” invalidate the sixty or more New Testament passages that clearly deal with Israel on a physical basis. (Refer to Chapter 2 of “God’s Covenant People 0 Yesterday, Today and Forever,” for a list of sixty New Testament passages that clearly teach God’s New Covenant plan for physical Israel)
With this last point in mind we can now ask:
“Does this passage spiritualize Israel in the sense that many modern-day preachers and Judeo-Christians claim?”
Those who believe in and teach a “spiritual Israel” under the New Covenant (New Testament) will find that “their interpretation” of this passage in Galatians is totally depended upon “their definitions” of the words “Jew” and “Greek.” they “assume” the word “Jew” is synonymous with the term Israel or Israelites; descendants of any or all of the twelve sons of Jacob. They “also assume” that the word “Greek,” when used in contrast to the word “Jew,” means any or all non-Israelites.
If Their definitions, for these two words are correct, then their interpretation of this passage is also correct.
However, it must also be understood that:
“If their definitions for these two words are incorrect, then they have arrived at the wrong conclusion.
For example: If your mother had taught you when you were a child that a turkey walked on four legs, had a tail, and said “moo,” then more than likely whenever you spoke of turkeys you would be making erroneous conclusions based on the original definitions given to you by your mother. Initially, ti would be difficult to convince you that your basic understanding of turkeys was incorrect; your mother (Judeo-Christian preachers, college professors, denominations, etc.) couldn’t be wrong. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to convince a whole society that had been taught the same erroneous definition? Yet the “number” of Judeo-Christian churches, so-called authorities and people who falsely believe and teach a lie DOES NOT MAKE THE LIE TRUE, NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES IT IS REPEATED, AND NO MATTER WHO REPEATS IT.
This is exactly the scenario we find ourselves in today. Modern-day Judeo-Christian teachers have taught that all Israelites are Jews, and that everyone else is either a Gentile or a Greek. However, the commonly accepted definitions of “Jew,”“Gentiles,” and “Greek” are erroneous. Once the correct definitions are provided, a different light is shed on Galatians 3:26-29 and on the remainder of Scripture as well.
Even the Jews admit that they are not the descendants of the ancient Israelites. Under the heading of "A brief History of the Terms for Jew" in the 1980 Jewish Almanac is the following:
"Strictly speaking it is incorrect to call an Ancient Israelite a 'Jew' or to call a contemporary Jew an Israelite or a Hebrew." (1980 Jewish Almanac, p. 3).
Jews: The Biblical use of the word “Jew(s)” refers to Judahites who were descendants from the house of Judah which was composed primarily of the two tribes Judah, and Benjamin. The word “Jew(s)”“never” refers to all twelve tribes as a whole and “never” to the ten-tribed house of Israel. (For a more exhaustive explanation please refer to Chapter 1 or God’s Covenant People - Yesterday Today and Forever)
Greeks: For the most part, the word “Greek(s)” is used in the bible interchangeably with the word “Gentile(s)” as illustrated in 1 Corinthians and several other locations:
“For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach (the) Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, (the) Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24, NASV)
Consequently, the word “Greek” in Galatiaons 3:28 could be replaced with “Gentile” without doing harm to the intent or meaning of Galatians 3:26-29.
Gentiles: The word “ethnos,” from which the word “Gentile(s)” is derived, has at least five New Testament applications:
1). “gentiles”: In reference to “heathens,” specifically any nation or race not serving YHWH as God; (1 Corinthians 12:2)
2). “Nations”: In reference to “a multitude of people,” specifically the whole human race; (Acts 17:26)
3). “Nation”: In reference to Jews, specifically descendants of the house of Judah, the two southern tribes; (Luke 7:3-5)
4). “Gentiles”: In reference to “Israelites,” specifically descendants of the house of Israel, the ten northern tribes; (Romans 9:24 - For a more exhaustive explanation please refer to Chapter 1 of God’s Cotenant People - Yesterday, today and Forever)
5). “Gentiles: In reference to “non-Israelites,” specifically those not physically descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; (Acts 7:45)
There is more than one possible interpretation for the word “ethnos.” It can refer to “either” non-Israelite or Israelite gentiles. Thus, it is foolish, if not dishonest, for anyone to randomly select the application which happens to suit his doctrinal position and apply it to a particular passage. The context must be taken into consideration and studied to determine which of the interrelations is the correct application.
The Context of Galatians
So what does the context of Galatians tell us about these Greeks or Gentiles? To whom was the book of Galatians written?
“Paul, an apostle...and all the brethren which are with me, unto ‘the churches of Galatia.’” (Galatians 1:1-2)
With the understanding that the word “church” means those “called out” or “saved in Yhshua,” it is then obvious that the Apostle Paul was addressing this epistle to the Christians of Galatia who had responded to the New Covenant (New Testament Gospel) call of salvation.
We were the Galatians who responded to the gospel? The Apostle Peter provides an important clue in answering this question:
“Peter, an apostle of Yhshua (the) Christ, to the ‘strangers scattered’ throughout Pontus, ‘Galatia,’ Cappdocia, Asia, and Bithynia...” (1 Peter 1:1)
The phrase “strangers scattered” is also rendered “sojourners of the dispersion,” (Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), p 908) “Israelite resident(s) in Gentile countries,” (James Strong, The Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p. 23) and is the same Green noun as found in James 1:1:
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Yhshua (the) Christ, to THE TWELVE TRIBES (of Israel) WHICH ARE SCATTERED (dispersed, NASV) ABROAD, greeting.”
With this understanding, 1 Peter 1:1 can thus be interpreted and understood to say
“Peter...to the strangers, ISRAELITES OF THE DISPERSION SCATTERED THROUGHOUT Pontus, GALATIA, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia...”
Many of the Israelites, after being taken captive by the Assyrians, migrated and made their residence in the country of Galatia. These Israelites were some of the people Peter addressed in his first epistle. Thus it would be safe to say that when the Apostle Paul, who was contemporary with the Apostle Peter, wrote to those in Galatia, he was writing to some of those same people. This, alone, does not prove that the “Greek(s)” mentioned in Galatians 3:28 were Israelite Gentiles, but it certainly deserves consideration in our attempt to discover their true identity. The context of Galatians 3 will provide the rest of the clues necessary to correctly answer the previous questions:
“Know ye therefore that THEY WHICH ARE OF FAITH, the same ARE THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM.” (Galatians 3:7)
This verse is also often quoted in an attempt to spiritualize Israel in the New Testament. But this verse taken alone, as it is translated in our modern English versions of the Bible, does not support the concept that Israel is merely spiritual. IF the word “they” spoken of in this verse refers to non-Israelite Gentiles, then one must conclude that the CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM ARE SPIRITUAL CHILDREN rather than PHYSICAL CHILDREN. On the other hand, IF the word “they” refers to literal Israelites from either the house of Judah or the house of Israel, then one must conclude that only those physical Israelites who are of faith (Redeemed and Saved by Yhshua) are TRUE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM. The remaining physical Israelites would continue to be an anathema, as the house of Israel had become when God divorced her. (Jeremiah 3:8)
Nothing can be proven by proponents of EITHER position using this verse as it is translated in most of our modern English Bibles. However, consider this verse as provided to us by Pastor Alfred Marshall in The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, and another clue is uncovered which helps determine the correct interpretation:
“Know ye then that the (ones) of faith, THESE SONS are of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7)
In other words, THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY PHYSICAL SONS (Israelites) AND WHO ARE OF FAITH ARE RECKONED AS BEING TRUE SONS OF ABRAHAM.
We find a similar expression in 1 Peter 3 that acts as an additional witness:
Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and YOU HAVE BECOME HER CHILDREN IF YOU DO WHAT IS RIGHT without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:6, NASV)
The Apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to Israelites of the dispersion; consequently, verse 6 can be interpreted and understood to say:]
...YOU, PHYSICAL DAUGHTERS OF SARAH, HAVE TRULY BECOME HER CHILDREN IF YOU DO WHAT IS RIGHT... (1 Peter 3:6)
Even when using the literal translation of Galatians 3:7 we are not provided enough evidence to determine the correct application for the word “Greek” in verse 28. Therefore, further study in Galatians 3 is required.
“But before faith came, WE were kept under the (Old Covenant, Old Testament) law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto (the) Christ, and WE might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, WE are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:23-25)
Who are the “we” whom Paul addressed in these verses? Clearly they are the same people as the “he” (you) whom he addressed in verses 26 and 27:
“For YE are all the children of God by faith in (the) Christ Yhshua. For as many of YOU as have been baptized in (the) Christ have put on (the) Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27)
The “ye” in verses 26 and 27 is represented as Jews or Greeks in verse 28; thus we can conclude that the “we” of verses 23, 24 and 25 are also both Jews and Greeks. Paul described those people, who were both Jews and Greeks, as having been previously “under the law.” which people had been given God’s Law, or were considered under God’s Law? This description fits only one group of people; the nation of Israel.
Consider the Scriptures quoted below:
“MOSES COMMANDED US (the twelve tribes of Israel) A LAW, EVEN THE INHERITANCE (possession, NASV) OF THE CONGREGATION OF JACOB.” (Deuteronomy 33:4)
For HE (YHWH) ESTABLISHED A TESTIMONY IN JACOB, AND APPOINTED A LAW IN ISRAEL, which HE COMMANDED OUR FATHERS, that they should make them known to their children.” (Psalm 78:5)
“...who are ISRAELITES, TO WHOM PERTAINETH (belongs, NASV) the adoption, and the glory and the covenants (Old and New), and THE GIVING OF THE LAW, and the service of God, and the promises.” (Romans 9:4)
These Scriptures clearly teach what every preacher across this land should already know: God’s Law was given to the Israelites (and no one else); it belonged to them and they were under its requirements. Not only was the Law given to the Israelites as their possession, it was given EXCLUSIVELY TO ISRAELITES as their possession. This exclusiveness is made clear in the following passage:
“HE SHEWETH HIS WORDS TO JACOB, HIS STATUES AND HIS JUDGMENTS (laws, Moffatt Translation), UNTO ISRAEL. HE HATH NOT DEALT SO WITH ANY NATION; AND AS FOR HIS JUDGMENTS (commands, Moffatt Translation), THEY (the other races) HAVE NOT KNOWN THEM.” (Psalm 147:19-20) Praise YH!
This irrefutable evidence correctly identifies the Greeks of Galationas 3:28. They can be no one else but Israelite Gentiles. Additional evidence confirms this conclusion. Thus far, in studying the context of Galatians 3, verses one, seven and the three verses (23-25) immediately preceding the passage in question have been examined. Let us continue with a study the five verses which immediately follow verse 29 of Galations 3:
“Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to REDEEM THEM THAT WERE UNDER THE (Old Covenant - Old Testament) LAW, that we might RECEIVE THE ADOPTION OF SONS.” (Galatians 4:1-5)
We are provided with THREE CLUES in this passage “UNDER THE LAW” is the FIRST CLUE that has already been reviewed from Galatians 3:23-25. Israelites, both Jews and Greeks, descendants of the house of Judah and the house of Israel, were the ONLY people who had been under Tod’s Law.
THE SECOND CLUE uncovered is that Yhshua came to “REDEEM THEM THAT WERE UNDER THE LAW.” Notice it says nothing about redeeming those who were NOT under the Law. Why not? Why would Yhshua not want to redeem non-Israelites as well? Simply put, He could not! He COULD PURCHASE non-Israelites, but He COULD NOT REDEEM them. The reason is simple when one understands that the word “redeem” means to BUY BACK. Only people who had once been the possession of YHWH could be bought back or redeemed. Which people had previously been the POSSESSION of YHWH? Moses answers that question in the following two passages:
“...Now therefore, if ye (Israel) will obey my (YHWH’s) voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then YE SHALL BE A PECULIAR TREASURE (possession, NASV) UNTO ME ABOVE ALL PEOPLE; for all the earth is mine; and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. THESE ARE THE WORDS WHICH THOU SHALT SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
“For thou (Israel; Deuteronomy 6:4) art an holy people unto YHWH thy God; YHWH THY GOD HATH CHOSEN THEE TO BE A SPECIAL PEOPLE UNTO HIMSELF (a people for His own possession, NASV), ABOVE ALL PEOPLE THAT ARE UPON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.”(Deuteronomy 7:6)
It is very clear, ONLY Israelites who had been the POSSESSION of YHWH and who had subsequently been divorced and rejected by YHWH could be BOUGHT BACK or REDEEMED by YHWH. Both Old and New Testaments (covenants) attest to the accuracy of these statements:
“...THE REDEEMER (Yhshua) SHALL COME TO ZION, AND UNTO THEM THAT TURN FROM TRANSGRESSION IN JACOB, saith YHWH.” (Isaiah 59:20)
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for HE (YHWH) HATH VISITED AND REDEEMED HIS PEOPLE (Israel).” (Luke 1:68)
“But we (the two on he road to Emmaus with Yhshua after His resurrection) trusted that it had bee HE (Yhshua) WHICH SHOULD HAVE REDEEMED ISRAEL.” (Luke 24:21)
Once again we have evidence that correctly identifies the Greeks in Galatians 3. These Galatian Greeks had to be Israelite Gentiles since only Israelites could be redeemed by Yhshua.
THE THIRD CLUE is found in the word “ADOPTION.” To whom do the Scriptures say the adoption belongs?
“Who are ISRAELITES, TO WHOM PERTAINETH (belongs, NASV) THE ADOPTION, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and service of God, and the promises.” (Romans 9:4)
It is conceded that this verse does not harmonize with what many Christians have been taught concerning the adoption; that anyone of any race can receive the adoption. However, we hope that you are honest enough to lay aside any previously held misconceptions and to accept what Paul clearly teaches. With the evidence from Romans 9:4, only one conclusion can be drawn concerning the identity of the Greeks (Gentiles) in Galatians3; THEY ARE ISRAELITES to whom “BELONGS THE ADOPTION.”
The context of Galatians 3 correctly identifies the Greeks as Israelites. This conclusion is supported by the Apostle John:
“The Jews therefore said to one another, ‘Where does this man (Yhshua) intend to go that we shall not find him? He is not intending to go to the DISPERSION (Israelite resident) in Gentile countries. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance) AMONG THE GREEKS, and teach THE GREEKS (Israelites of the dispersion), is He?” (John 7:35, NASV)
In addition to the previous three clues, note the emphasis placed on the words “if” and “then” in verse 29 of Galatians3:
‘And IF ye be (the) Christ’s, THEN are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29)
This verse can now be correctly understood to say: “ONLY ISRAELITES (either Jews (meaning Judeans) or Greeks) BELONGING TO THE CHRIST ARE RECKONED AS TRUE HEIRS OF ABRAHAM ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE.” In other words, this passage is dealing with Israelites who were under the misconception that simply being a physical descendant was all that was necessary to be considered an heir of the promise. In contrast, Paul was pointing out that physical descent alone is NOT enough under the New Covenant. Physical descendants are ONLY considered “heirs according to the promise” IF they are ALSO spiritual sons of Abraham through salvation in Yhshua the Christ.
This is not to say that people of other races could not and cannot become proselytes to the covenants which belong to the Israelites (Isaiah 56:3-7) and thus receive benefits derived from those covenants. However, one does not have to distort Galatians 3:26-29 in order to prove that point.
In conclusion, the Apostle Paul once again states:
“For YE ARE ALL THE CHILDREN OF GOD by faith in (the) Christ Yhshua...” (Galatians 3:26-27)
The “ye” (you) in verse 26 is identified in verse 28 as being:
1). “Jews”: Descendants from the house of Judah; and not the mixed breed Jews between Esau and his Canaanite wives, and True Israelites an their Canaanite and wives of the other races indigenous to the area.
2). “Greeks”: Descendants of the house of Israel who were formerly under god’s Law, divorced by god and dispersed to Galatia, whom Yhshua came to Redeem, and to whom belonged the adoption.
Does Galatians 3:26-29 Spiritualize Israel? It certainly does, but NOT in the sense that so many Judeo-Christians are claiming. This passage is declaring that only ABRAHAM’S PHYSICAL DESCENDANTS who have also become SPIRITUAL DESCENDANTS through salvation and Redemption through Yhshua the Christ can be considered ABRAHAM’S TRUE DESCENDANTS.”
Romans 2:28-29 and Romans 9:6: Two other passages are often used in the attempt to designate Israel in the New Testament a “spiritual” group of people from all races who have been saved in Yhshua. Each passage will be examined briefly:
“For HE IS NOT A JEW, WHICH IS ONE OUTWARDLY, neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But HE IS A JEW, WHICH IS ONE INWARDLY; AND CIRCUMCISION IS THAT OF THE HEART, IN THE SPIRIT, and not in the letter (of the Law); whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
The Apostle Paul was simply addressing his fellow Israelites (Judahites - the translators placed Jew here in error) who had the same erroneous outlook as previously described in our study of Galatians 3. These Jews (Judahites who could claim physical descent like all) assumed that ancestry alone was sufficient to make one acceptable to God. Paul was NOT declaring to non-Israelites that they could spiritually become “Jews.” Instead, he WAS DECLARING TO THE JEWS THAT THEY WERE NOT TRUE ISRAELITES unless they, as Israelites, were circumcised of the heart (saved in Yhshua the Christ).
Keep in mind that even IF Paul were addressing this to Gentiles, he identifies the Gentiles in Romans 9:24-26 as Israelites (descendants of the house of Israel).
“Not as though the word of god hath taken none effect. For THEY ARE NOT ALL ISRAEL, WHICH ARE OF ISRAEL.”
There are two ways in which this verse by itself can be interpreted:
1). “Israel” is comprised of MORE THAN just physical Israelites.
2). NOT ALL physical Israelites are considered Israel.
Option 1 implies inclusion; an addition of people.
Option 2 implies exclusion; a subtraction of people.
Since we have two possible options for interpreting this verse, we must allow the context to be the determinant in choosing the correct interpretation. Does the context imply an inclusion or an exclusion? Read the verses which immediately follow Romans 9:6, and it becomes clear that Paul’s intent was AN EXCLUSION.
First, the PHYSICAL LINE OF ISHMAEL WAS EXCLUDED (verse 7-9). Next, the PHYSICAL LINE OF ESAU was excluded (verses 10-13). Verses 14-22 explain God’s sovereign right to do this. Next, THE MAJORITY OF ISRAELITES FROM BOTH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH AND FROM THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL WERE ALSO EXCLUDED. (Verses 23-27)
Paul’s point in writing verses 6-26 was to illustrate that only a REMNANT FROM ALL ISRAEL (from both the house of Judah and the house of Israel) will be saved as stated in verse 27. In other words, not all physical Israelites are considered Israel in God’s sight. This conclusion harmonizes perfectly with what we have already discovered from Galatians 3:26-29 and Romans 2:28-29.