The Church and Israel – Part 5

It is axiomatic in the Catholic letters that the election of Israel is extended to include the church. In the latter part of the New Testament, there is a clear emphasis on the church as the “elect” people of God who are partakers of the position and priviledges of Israel. Peter writes to the “elect exiles of the dispersion” (1 Pet 1:1), who are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Pet 2:9) because they have come to Jesus Christ the “chosen one” (1 Pet 2:4, 6). In the second letter of Peter, a godly character becomes sure proof of the surety of one’s calling and election (2 Pet 1:10). In Hebrews, the new covenant to be made with the “house of Israel” is the covenant received by the church (Heb 8:8-10). In sum, the Old Testament correlation between “Israel” and the “elect” is continued in the New Testament with the same correlation between “church” and the “elect”.[1]

The Revelation of John presents a visionary account of the church as an eschatological Israel comprised of people from among all the nations. In one vision, the 144, 000 from the twelve tribes of Israel, who are sealed for salvation (Rev 7:4-8), are then described as “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Rev 7:9). The theme of the “twelve tribes” reappears later in the vision of the gates of the New Jerusalem where the names of the twelve tribes are written on the gates, and the gates are wide open for the nations to enter into (Rev 21:12, 24-26). It seems that what we have in Revelation is not the replacement of national Israel by the church, instead, it is the abolition of the national limits of the elect nation.[2]

[1] Minear, Images of the Church, 81.

[2] Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993), 224-25.

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