The Third Thing You Failed to See

By Justin Johnson

It is wrong to think that there are only two things going on in the Bible: the old covenant and new covenant. In reality, there are at least three, the old covenant, the new covenant, and the mystery of Christ.

Just as wrong is to think there are only two people of God in the Bible: old covenant Israel and the Church. Instead, there are three, old covenant Israel, new covenant Israel, and the mystery Church.

If there is one idea that prevents people from making a clear dispensational distinction between Israel and the Church it is the failure to identify that third people, called by prophesy the righteous nation, the remnant, and the “little flock” of new covenant Israel (Isa 10:21; 26:2; 62:12; Luke 12:32).

In their minds there are only two options, and there is nothing else on the table.

If there are only two people and old covenant Israel does not get the promises, then who else is there to receive them? Limited by their options they end up wrongly attributing to the church that which is rightly new covenant Israel’s.

There is a people of God that is neither old covenant Israel nor the mystery church. There is a third group you failed to see.

Not My People, Now My People

The most common example of this failure is in 1 Peter 2:9-10.

1 Peter 2:9 describes a “a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” This is all language in the promises given to Israel.

The next verse says, “which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10).

A failure to identify the remnant of Israel leaves only one conclusion: this must be speaking about Gentiles in the church the Body of Christ. Once the church has Israel’s name, blessings, and position, then what is the big difference between Israel and the Church? There is none. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and sounds like a duck…

It takes a little more study to learn that Peter is quoting Hosea 1:9-10 in his epistle which speaks to the house of Israel. It was to the rebellious house of Israel that God said:

“ Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. “ – Hosea 1:9

The next verse speaks of the time when the house of Israel would return as sons of the living God.

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.“ – Hosea 1:10

When did this occur? When Christ came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 15:24), and offered them the power to become the sons of God (John 1:12).

Peter is speaking to the lost sheep of the house of Israel who found their Messiah and would receive what old covenant Israel would not. It was not the whole nation, but that small peculiar remnant of a nation that believed Jesus was the Messiah who would inherit the kingdom.

It is this group that Peter, James, and John belong to and to whom they wrote their epistles. When most people assume the twelve apostles (who were 12 because there were 12 tribes) are apostles of the church, they fail to recognize the existence of the righteous nation, the third option, the sheep found among those that were lost.

The Righteous Nation

Jesus was speaking to unbelieving old covenant Israel. He took something from them and gave it to someone else. Who?

“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” – Matthew 21:43

Even though Matt 21:43 refers to a singular nation (Israel), those who fail to acknowledge the third option will make the “nation” the church. Yet in the church it is clear that there is no nationality and consists of people from many nations (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). No, this won’t do.

Who are the people who are “not of this fold” in John 10:16, “it must be the church!”, they cry. They’d be right, unless there was another option on the table in John 10 while the church was still a mystery.

Who receives the kingdom if not old covenant Israel? Answer: not the mystery church, wherein is no Jew or Gentile, but the little flock of Israel (Luke 12:32).

Who receives the promises of Rom 9-11 if not old covenant Israel who lacked faith? Answer: the remnant of Israel who did receive their Messiah by faith (Rom 9:27; Rom 11:5).

The Third Option

Non-dispensationalists do not confuse the church with old testament Israel nearly as much as they confuse the church with new testament Israel.

Before you remove the mystery church kept secret from Matt-John and Hebrews through Revelation, you better have something to fill the void. Who received Jesus, if not the church? Who gets the kingdom if not the church?

Dispensationalists do not teach old covenant Israel will return. Dispensationalists teach old covenant Israel has been replaced by new covenant Israel.

Dispensationalists do not teach that the church is the fulfillment of Israel’s prophecies, but that the righteous nation led by the twelve apostles is the fulfillment (1 Peter 1:12).

When you see the presence of this third thing it is much easier to separate Israel and the church. When you see that most, even among dispensationalists, still think the twelve apostles are to the church, you see why there is still a lot of work to do.

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Published: July 1, 2017
Last Modified: July 5, 2017
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