When the children of Israel left Egypt, a mixed multitude of people came with them (Exodus 12:38) and from the very outset of God’s covenant with Israel, which began at the time of the Exodus (Jeremiah 31:31-32; Hebrews 8:8-9), the descendants of Jacob were commanded to welcome into the covenant, those who chose to serve the God of Israel.
And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and HE SHALL BE AS ONE THAT IS BORN IN THE LAND: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof (Exodus 12:48).
When the Covenant was ratified with the second generation of Israelites some forty years later, there were still Gentiles among the descendants of Jacob. They too were given covenant membership and are included as the people of Israel.
“Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deuteronomy 29:10-13).
Notice that “the Strangers” with them were included.
Later, after Israel went in and conquered Jericho, Rahab, who formerly was a prostitute, became an Israelite along with her Gentile family (Joshua 6:25). Rahab later married Salmon, and became an ancestress of Jesus, the Messiah.
Ruth, a Gentile Moabitess also became an Israelite. After the death of her first husband who was an Israelite, she married Boaz, and like Rahab, she also became an ancestress of Jesus.
During the time of Ester, many Gentiles were joined to Israel and BECAME JEWS. King Ahasuerus, reigned over 127 provinces reaching from India to Ethiopia (Esther1:1; 8:9-17). Esther 8:17 tells us that many of the people of the land (Gentiles throughout these 127 provinces) became Jews because the fear of the Jews came upon them.
Isaiah 56:3-7 says, “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from His people.’ …For thus says the Lord, ‘…the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
In the New Testament Jesus quotes the latter portion of this verse saying: “My house will be called a house of prayer for ALL NATIONS” (Mark 11:17).
Psalm 87:4-6 says, “ I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know Me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah.”
According to Psalm 87, Gentiles from other nations who know God are called God’s people and it is recorded that they were born in Zion!
Throughout the Old Testament, those who joined themselves to Israel to serve Israel’s God, became Israelites with full citizenship as Ezekiel 47:21-23 points out; “So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God.
According to Ezekiel 47:21-23 (referenced above), the land of Israel belonged to the Gentiles who became Israelites, just as much as it belonged to the physical descendants of Jacob.
We can see from the Old Testament scriptures presented thus far, Israel did not consist only of the physical descendants of Abraham.
When we come to the New Testament, we find Jesus marveling at the faith of a Gentile centurion, and in response He says to His Jewish followers, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven…” (See Matthew 8:10-11).
Israel in the Old Testament was God’s covenant people, but Israel wasn’t the physical descendants of Abraham only. Throughout Israel’s history, many Gentiles joined them and inherited full Israeli citizenship.
When Jesus was approached by Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, Jesus puzzled Nicodemus with his statement “you must be born again to see the Kingdom of Heaven.” An often overlooked statement by Jesus within this dialog with Nicodemus is found in verse 10. Jesus says, “Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things?”
Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and a master in Israel, about a spiritual truth he should have understood from the Jewish scriptures, Israel will be born again! Not by the gathering of an ethnic people into the land, but by the gathering of the people of God into the Messiah. This is what is foreshadowed throughout the narrative of Israel’s history as the Gentiles were joined to Israel as the people of God. God’s people, in covenant relationship with Him, are from all nations.
Israel’s history throughout the Old Testament was leading to its climatic destiny which is fulfilled or brought to its fullness in the Messiah. Israel’s destiny as the people of God has been translated from a physical nation in the flesh into a spiritual nation in Christ. That is why the New Testament writers use language which applied to physical Israel in the Old Testament and apply it to the Church.
For example, in Exodus 19 God told Moses to tell Israel, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure 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.”
The Apostle Peter says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light…”(1 Peter 2:9).
The church is born again Israel.
The church is the temple of God, the body of Christ, the redeemed of the Lord, a chosen generation, and a special bought people.
The church consists of Jews, and Gentiles in one body. If there is to be a national repentance of ethnic Israel just prior to the coming of the Lord as many believe, then what will happen to them when they turn to the Lord?
They will be baptized into the one body of Christ. They will become members of the BORN AGAIN ISRAEL!
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:13).
All Jews who are born again or ever will be born again are grafted back into their own tree, which is the church. God does not have two people, He has one!
Through the gospel of Christ, believing Gentiles from all nations are heirs together with believing Jews, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 3;6).
Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus are baptized into the body of Jesus Christ, and those who reject Jesus are cut off from being God’s people.
For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people’ (Acts 3:22-23).
In Romans 11, Paul describes Israel, God’s covenant people, as the olive tree and the Gentiles as the wild olive tree. Paul tells us some of the branches of the olive tree have been broken off because of unbelief. This is consistent with Peter’s declaration in Acts 3:22-23 mentioned above.
The branches who are cut off from covenant membership are those of the Jewish nation who reject Jesus the Messiah. The branches that are not broken off is the remnant of believing Jews. Paul also tells us that some of the branches of the wild olive tree (the Gentiles) have been grafted into the olive tree with the remnant. This is Israel in the New Testament, or you might say, this is Israel on the other side of the cross. The resurrected, born again Israel.
Now, if those physical Jews who were cut off (the branches from the olive tree) will believe, they will be grafted back into their own tree.
Therefore they will be grafted in with believing Jews and Gentiles who trust in the Messiah. This is Israel of the New Covenant, and this is where physical Israel’s story was heading all along.
Christ’s death is the climax of the narrative of Israel’s story in the flesh, and the resurrection is Israel’s new beginning!
You must be born again to continue on in Covenant with God!