By Ken Davies 13320 Camino Canada, #6 El Cajon, CA 92021
Does God have a chosen people today? If so, who are they?
What makes them chosen? What were they chosen to do?
The answers to these questions can only be found in the Bible. As you
study this subject in light of this essay, you may find that it contradicts what you have
been taught. If this is so, it is because you have been taught a system, not
the Bible. What does the term chosen people mean? Many think immediately of
Israel. Is this correct? What does the Bible say:
For you are a holy people to the Lord your God: the Lord your
God has chosen you to be a special people to Himself, above all people that are on the
face of the earth. - Deut. 7:6
To whom was this spoken? A look at Deut. 6:3-4 reveals it was spoken to
Israel. At that time, Israel consisted of all those that came out of Egypt with Moses (see
Deut. 7:8). A very similar verse is Deut. 14:2: For you are a holy people to the
Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a peculiar people to Himself, above all
the nations of the earth. In 1 Chron. 16:13, Israel is called His
chosen ones: O you seed of Israel His servant, you children of Jacob, His
chosen ones. David wrote: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
and the people whom He has chosen... (Psa. 33:12). And: O you seed of
Abraham His servant, you children of Jacob His chosen...He brought forth His people with
joy, and His chosen with gladness. (Psa. 105:6, 43).
Isaiah records these words from the Lord: But you, Israel, are
My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, My friend...You are My servant;
I have chosen you, and not cast you away. (Isa. 41:8-9) You are
My witnesses, says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen....
(Isa. 43:10). ...I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the
desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. (Isa. 43:20). Yet hear
now, O Jacob My servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: (Isa. 44:1). In Isa.
48:12, the Lord refers to them as My called, and Daniel calls them His
chosen people (11:15).
From the above, it can be seen that the phrase, chosen
people definitely applied to Israel.
But, what was the composition of OT Israel? According to the Bible,
Israel was made up of:
- the descendants of Jacob (Ex. 1:1; Josh. 13:6, etc.), and,
- those who joined Israel through circumcision and keeping the law (Ex. 12:48f).
Keeping the covenant was a requirement for all those who wished to
remain a part of Israel: And the uncircumcised male...shall be cut off from his
people; he has broken My covenant. (Gen. 17:14). ...whoever eats
leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day [of the Feast of Unleavened
Bread], that soul shall be cut off from Israel...for whoever eats anything leavened, that
soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger, or born
in the land. (Ex. 12:15,19). For other examples, see: Ex. 30:32,38; 31:14; Lev.
7:20-21, 25,27; 17:4,9-10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; and Num. 15:30-31.
These Scriptures, and many others, show that membership in the nation
of Israel was dependent on obedience to Gods commandments. To disobey God was to
lose ones citizenship.
When most people think of O.T. Israel, they think exclusively in terms
of Israel as a nation. Yet, this is not the true Biblical meaning of Israel.
The Old Testament scholar A. R. Hulst has shown that the name Israel has
always had a twofold significance: one national, and the other religious.1 For example: ...you
[Israel] will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex. 19:6). The
prophecy of Amos (9:11-12) proclaims that the remnant of Israel would be largely an
entity of religious instead of national destination.2
Isaiah says much the same thing: [Gods] house shall be
called a house of prayer for all nations. The sovereign Lord declares He who
gathers the exiles of Israel: I will gather still others to them besides those already
gathered. (Isa. 56:7-8).
The noted scholar Hans K. LaRondelle has demonstrated conclusively that
the primary meaning of Israel in the O.T. stands for the
religious covenant community, the people who worship Yahweh in truth and Spirit.
Secondarily, it denotes a distinct ethnic group or nation which is called to become
spiritual Israel. Decisive for the Old Testament prophets and their prophecies is the
theological quality of the people of God, not their ethnic and political
Contrary to the claims of Hal Lindsey, and other dispensational authors
(Charles Ryrie, etc.4), the blessing of Israels election was not
unconditional. The purpose of the election is service, and when the service is
withheld the election loses its meaning, and therefore fails....If she [Israel] ceased to
acknowledge Yahweh to be her God, then she declared that she no longer wished to be His
people. ....Her high calling to be the Chosen People was not the mark of Divine indulgence
or favoritism, but a summons to a task exacting and unceasing, and election and task were
so closely bound together that she could not have one without the other.5
Did O.T. Israel lose her election? As Paul would say, God
forbid! The Old Testament prophesied in many places that a remnant would
be saved. The question is: Of whom was this remnant to consist? According to Jer.
31:31-34, the remnant would be made up of those who know the Lord, and whose
sins would be forgiven completely (unlike under the Old Covenant - Heb. 10:1-4). This was
to be made possible through the initiation of a new covenant. This New
Covenant (or Testament -KJV) was ratified by Jesus at His crucifixion, shown
to His disciples in symbolic form in the Last Supper (Mt. 26:28 and parallels; 1 Cor.
Is New Testament Israel any different from Old Testament Israel? If so,
The Israel of the New Covenant is made up of:
those descendants of Jacob who believed in the Messiah (Mt. 10:6;
15:24; Acts 2:36-41; 21:20, etc.), and,
those who joined Israel through spiritual circumcision and the
keeping of the new law (Rom. 2:28-29; 13:10; 1 Tim. 1:5).
With the establishment of the New Covenant, physical descent was no
longer a determining factor for entrance into Israel. Only those who believed in the
Messiah could enter or remain a part of Israel. Let us examine what the Bible has to say
on the subject: The Lord called you [Israel] a thriving olive tree with fruit
beautiful in form. But with the roar of a mighty storm He will set it on fire, and its
branches will be broken. (Jer. 11:16). Verse 17 says this was directed to the
house of Israel, and the house of Judah. Hosea says of Israel: His
branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree.... (Hos.
Paul picks up the olive tree motif in Rom. 11:17-24. He says those Jews
who rejected the Messiah were themselves rejected and broken off (or cut
off, to use the O.T. term) from the olive tree of Israel (v. 20). The
apostle showed that the only possible way to remain a citizen of Israel was to believe in
Jesus as Messiah. This citizenship was also offered to the Gentiles on the same condition.
If they would put their faith in the Messiah of Israel, they would be made fellow citizens
of Israel (cf. Eph. 2:19). Christ created His Church, not beside Israel, but
as the faithful remnant of Israel that inherits the covenant promises and
responsibilities. Christs Church is not separated from the Israel of God, only from
the Christ-rejecting Jewish nation.6
The identification of the Church with Israel is explicit in
Peters first epistle: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people belonging to God.... (1 Pet. 2:9). Here, Peter
definitively states that those who believe in Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 2:7) were
the chosen race and the holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9; compare Ex. 19:6;
Deut. 7:6; and 14:2). Only in Christ could Israel as a nation have remained the true
covenant people of God.7 Gods covenant people are no longer distinguished by
racial or territorial characteristics, but exclusively by their faith in Christ.8 And the
land we have inherited is a spiritual one. The spiritual blessings of citizenship in the
Israel of God are ours as Christians, but what of the unconditional land
promises of the so-called Palestinian Covenant?
One of the most common assertions of the premillennial
dispensationalist today is that the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 is proof that
the Jews are still Gods Chosen People, and that He still has prophetic
plans for them. (This has been asserted more vigorously than ever due to the recent
hostilities in the Middle East). It is claimed that God was at work bringing the Jews back
to their ancient homeland, and that they have a Biblical right to claim
Palestine as their own.9 Are these claims correct? Was the formation of the State of
Israel evidence of Gods blessing? Of Gods election?
Just what Scriptures do dispensationalists use to support these claims?
How do they come to their conclusions? As you may know already, the dispensationalist uses
what he calls a literal hermeneutic. That is, he claims to interpret the words
of the Bible at face value, understanding them in their normal, everyday usage
and meaning.10 This extremely literal hermeneutic is then used to interpret
the prophecies of the Old Testament that speak of the return of Gods people to the
Holy Land. However, this literalism is also used as an excuse to ignore the plain
reinterpretation by the New Testament writers of these very same prophecies. Even when the
inspired writers of the N.T. give a meaning to the O.T. prophecies other than a
literal one, the dispensationalist will say that this is not the complete meaning,
and that these prophecies remain to be realized for Israel.11
One of the Scriptures the dispensationalist claims was fulfilled by the
1948 formation of the State of Israel is found in Ezek. 36-37. This prophecy was given to
Ezekiel during the Babylonian captivity (Ezek. 1:1-2), and foretold the eventual return of
Israel to their land. Tied in with this prophecy was the prediction of the coming Messiah
(Ezek. 37:24), and the inauguration of the New Covenant (Ezek. 37:26-28). As we know from
both secular history and the New Testament, the people did return to the land and
the Messiah did come and establish the New Covenant (Mt. 26:28). Despite this,
dispensationalists deny fulfillment of either of these prophecies, saying they found only
a partial fulfillment in Israels return and Christs first
advent.12 They further allege that the regathering of Jews to form the current State of
Israel is part of the final fulfillment. They say the blessings of the
Palestinian Covenant are only now coming into existence. The promises
of such passages as Deut. 30 are touted as Scriptural basis for Israels
regathering.13 How should we answer such claims?
According to Deut. 30:1-8, a necessary condition for the regathering of
Israel to Palestine was returning to the Lord: And [when you] shall return
to the Lord your God, and shall obey His voice...with all your heart, and all your soul, then
the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity.... (vs.2-3).
Based on this clear passage of Scripture, it can be definitely
concluded that the State of Israel which now exists was not formed as a result of the
blessings of this covenant (the Palestinian Covenant of the Scofield Bible).
The Jews of 1948 (except for maybe a few isolated individuals) did not
turn to the Lord. And, to base the formation of Israel upon their alleged
faithfulness to Judaism is to betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what
Judaism is. Some think the Jew of today has a special advantage, perhaps even salvation
without Christ, because they believe in the God of the Old Testament, and follow the Old
Testament religion. This overlooks the fact that the religion of the Old Testament was
based on making sacrifices for sins (Lev. 17:11). It also ignores the statements of the
New Testament that there is absolutely NO salvation outside Christ (John 14:6; Acts
4:10-12), and that the Old Testament religion was no longer efficacious (Heb. 7-10). The Lord
of the New Testament is Jesus. This revelation casts light on who the Lord of the Old
Testament is. For example, Peter quotes Joel 2:32 as being fulfilled in Jesus:
Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts
What shall we answer when the dispensationalist claims the existence of
the State of Israel today is proof of Gods covenant blessing upon them?
With the clear backing of Scripture, we can say, NO! We can then point to
Deut. 30:1-8 as proof that the Israel of today is definitely not the Israel of the Bible!
But, what about the land promised to Abraham?
Paul, in citing the promise to Abraham, does not limit the territory to
Palestine: It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the
promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by
faith. (Rom. 4:13). This is an extension of the statement of Jesus in Mt. 5:5,
in which the meek shall inherit not merely Palestine, but the earth. As you
can see, the inheritance is for Abraham and his offspring. The
dispensationalist believes Jewish people are entitled to the inheritance based on their
racial extraction or ethnic heritage. But, Paul counters this idea in Gal. 3:7,29: Know
for sure that only those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham. If you are
Christs, then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In case he hasnt made it clear enough, Paul reiterates for those who expect some
special privilege for physical descendants of Abraham: Now to Abrahams and
his seed the promises were made. He does not say, And to seeds, as of many,
but as of one, And to your seed, who is Christ (Gal. 3:16). The only
way to inherit anything is in Christ! The Jewish leaders who came to John the
Baptist thought the Kingdom was theirs automatically by virtue of their heritage: Do
not think to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father, For I say to you that
God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones! (Mt. 3:9).
Apostle Paul states the nature of true Jewishness: For he
is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the
flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the
heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter... (Rom. 2:28,29; cf. Rom. 9:6-8; 11:5-7).
The full scope of Israels prophets was not nationalistic,
but universal, with an increasing cosmic dimension which took in heaven and earth (Isa.
65:17; 24:21-23).14 The writer of Hebrews assures them Abraham was not looking
merely to Palestine for fulfillment of the promises. He looked for a better
country, and a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10,16).
The continuity of the O.T. terms and Middle East images in Hebrews assures the
Church that Gods promise has neither failed nor been postponed, but is experienced
now in Christ (Heb. 6:5)....15 And, the land promises made to Abraham are fulfilled
in the universal Kingdom of God.
In conclusion, we have studied the subject of who Gods Chosen
People are, and have found that, according to the Bible, Israel is now composed of all
those who believe in Jesus as Messiah. It is not correct, therefore, to state that the
Church has replaced Israel. Rather, the Church is the continuity of the Old Testament
Israel of God; it has only replaced the Jewish nation 16 There is no more
Jew and Gentile racial distinctions. All nations are now a part of
Spiritual Israel in Christ. Christs kingdom is here now in fullness. All (who were a
part of the true spiritual) Israel were saved and given the inheritance (Rom. 11:26).
With the advent of the war in the Middle East, many people are
wondering what is taking place in a prophetic sense. As preterists, we can say with
assurance that the events now taking place are NOT a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that
all prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70, at which time the New Covenant was fully
established, making the Kingdom available to all who would believe in Jesus as Savior
(Messiah). Some emotionalism is understandable in time of war. However, we need not fear
the Great Tribulation or being left behind in the Rapture. We know by the time
limitations recorded in the New Testament that these things have already occurred, and we
are living in the new spiritual promised land.
As quoted in The Israel of God in Prophecy:
Principles of Prophetic Interpretation, by Hans K. LaRondelle
(Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1983), p. 81.
The Road to Holocaust (New York: Bantam
Books, 1989), p.141. Incredibly, on p.184, he says the Israelites, even though in
apostasy at present, are still considered holy because of both their physical and
covenantal relationship to the Patriarchs.!
E.g. The Late Great Planet Earth
by Hal Lindsey (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970, pp.40-41.
Cf. Dispensationalism Today by Charles Caldwell Ryrie
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), p.86.
See: The New Scofield Reference Bible,
(1967, note to Jer. 31:31, p.804.
Cf. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary,
Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, eds. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p.755.
E.g. The Road to Holocaust by Hal
Lindsey (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p.92. See also: Richards Complete
Bible Handbook by Lawrence 0. Richards (Waco, TX: Word, 1987), p.355.