Last night, I spoke in my local church and gave out a resource for study that charts out the “big picture” of the people of God in the Biblical narrative. A key point was to note that in the Bible, God has always only had one people group.
Check out this image (Right Click and Open in New Tab):
It has often been assumed that God has two separately distinct peoples that he is working with in the ‘big picture:’ the Church and the Jews. This image demonstrates that the people of God, both before and after the cross belong on the same line in the spectrum of time. God’s people both before and after the cross, are to be seen with continuity. The church is not a separate group from the Jews, but rather is composed of all of “faithful Israel”, both Jew and Gentile. All who chose to follow Jesus’ movement as the “renewed” or “true” Israel, remained on the line both before and after the resurrection. But uniquely, it is after Calvary (and Pentecost) when the Gentiles are given equal access to being part of God’s “chosen people.” Simultaneously to this, all Jews who don’t believe in Jesus as Messiah, have chosen to not be part of God’s family any longer.
Jesus sent out his disciples (see Matthew 10) to proclaim to the Jews of the first century that they need to align themselves with the Kingdom of God, or they would have to endure the great tribulation that was coming within “this generation” (Matthew 24). This great tribulation (national crisis) which Jesus prophesied about, came to fulfillment in 70AD with the destruction of the Temple and all of Jerusalem. All who believed the message of Jesus, remained part of the true people of God, with Jesus rather than a building as the true Holy Place (Temple). All who refused have chosen to become like the non-believing Gentiles, and have cut themselves out of God’s people. Now both Jew and Gentile believers form the “new Israel” in continuity with the old. God’s true Israel is no longer confined to the Holy Land in Israel, but to him, the whole world is now his Holy Land!!!
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that God now only deals with one human family (as opposed to having the church and the nation of Israel):
28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3.28-29
The above passage gives us insight to who is actually part of Abraham’s family, and therefore a true Jew. It is not nationality that determines this any longer, but all who “belong to Christ” are “Abraham’s seed!” Therefore, the Christian family is in direct continuity with all of the faithful Israelites throughout history, and all that is promised to them in the Old Testament, are now the Church’s in the New Testament (composed of both faithful Jews and Gentiles). I think that the way that devout followers of Judaism fit into the picture is that Christ-followers are called to “woo” them so that they will be “grafted” back into God’s family (Romans 9-11).
This post reflects some random thoughts, but I don’t have this issue completely settled and ultimately may be surprised in the Last Day, for I am not the final Judge
As you look at the above image or read these thoughts, what is helpful? What are some questions that you have? Does this image spur on any thoughts? Do you notice a framework within the image that explains the ‘big picture’ of God’s biblical story?