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The first time the name ‘Israel’ appears in scripture is when it was spoken to Jacob after his long night of wrestling with a heavenly messenger. The messenger finally said, “Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for you as a prince has wrestled with God and with men, and has prevailed,” Genesis 32:28. Thus the name ‘Israel’ was at first a name of heavenly origin applied to Jacob alone. Jacob had 12 sons, who later moved to Egypt. The descendants of these sons eventually multiplied into 12 tribes, which were later forced into slavery by Egyptians until the time of Moses. Then God told Pharaoh through Moses, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn, let my son go,” Exodus 4:22, 23. Note here that the name ‘Israel’ is expanded to include Jacob’s descendants.

Many years later, the Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea, saying, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” Hosea 11:1. Indeed the Lord called the Israelites out of Egypt. The Lord then told the ancient Israelites; “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation,” Exodus 19:6. In the New Testament, Peter applies these exact words to the church: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people,” 1 Peter 2:9. So, according to the New Testament, there are now two Israels. One group is composed of literal Israelites ‘according to the flesh’ (Romans 9:3, 4). The other is ‘spiritual Israel’, composed of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ. John the Baptist paved the way for this principle when he warned the Jews not to trust their literal ancestry for salvation.


“Bring forth therefore fruits meet (worthy) for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves. We have Abraham to our father: For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” Matthew 3:8, 9. Later, Jesus echoed this same principle in a showdown with religious leaders. “They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham … Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do,” John 8:39, 44. Paul tells his Gentile converts, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” Galatians 3:7,29. James, when writing to the church, addressed it as the 12 tribes that are scattered abroad (James 1:1).

Eventually, this truth hit Peter between the eyes, and he told a room full of Gentile converts; “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him,” Acts 10:34, 35. Thus in the New Testament, the name Israel not only applies to the literal descendants of Jacob but also those who are born in Christ. Those who have a personal faith in Christ! In other words, all true Christians are now God’s spiritual Israel; Jew or gentile! Today, any person can become part of God’s spiritual Israel through faith in Christ. In Jesus’ eyes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). God does not have one method of salvation for Jews and a different one for non-Jews. Everyone is saved the same way, by grace through faith. “And so all Israel shall be saved,” Romans 11:26. Dear beloved, God is not a racist. We are saved based on choices we make regarding God’s provision, not on national status or physical citizenship.

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