The heirs of God’s promises to Abraham are God’s true people. Let me explain who that represents.
I have a basic disagreement with Dispensationalists. I do not doubt the salvation of those that consider Dispensationalism to be an accurate representation of what Scripture says. Nor do I doubt their ability to accurately teach the scriptures. Many Dispensationalists are fine Christian folks. Just because we disagree about things not essential to the faith does not mean we must break fellowship. An essential is something required for salvation. As long as we agree with the basics about salvation we can remain in fellowship. By basics I mean the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He was born of a virgin, grew as a man, died on the cross as a sacrifice in our place, was raised on the third day and today sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for our sins, the inerrancy of Scripture, the basic doctrines of the Faith found in the Scriptures, and that we should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (see also 1 Corinthians chapter 15). I am good friends with many brethren that are Dispensationalists even though we disagree about Israel.
I do not follow Replacement or Covenant theology; I fall into the camp of Remnant Theology. My disagreement with Dispensationalism is this statement, “The Church and Israel are two separate things. God deals with the Church through the Church age; after the Rapture, God will be dealing with the Nation of Israel.” This is what Charles Ryrie calls the Sine Qua Non (essential doctrine) of Dispensationalism.
Unfortunately that does not square with Scripture. Paul tells us in Romans chapters 9-11, that God is not finished with national Israel as opposed to true Israel, in that God will always wish for national Israel to become believers in Christ—and they will be given plenty of time to do so; even until the end of the age. True Israel (which is made up of God’s people, who are, by definition, Christians) is the actual recipient of all the promises made to Israel. True Israel consists of saved Israelites (or Jews), and saved Gentiles. Scriptures verify this (I am using the New Living Translation here):
Rom 9:1-5 (NLT) With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. (2) My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief (3) for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. (4) They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed His glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them His law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping Him and receiving His wonderful promises. (5) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ Himself was an Israelite as far as His human nature is concerned. And He is God, the One who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
In the above Scriptures, Paul is feeling sorrowful that most of his Israeli of Jewish brethren have rejected Christ. In the next verse, He tells us that not all Jews are actually God’s people.
Rom 9:6 (NLT) Well then, has God failed to fulfill His promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people!
He goes on to tell us that being the descendants of Abraham does not necessarily make them God’s people (or children).
Rom 9:8 (NLT) This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.
The question in this verse is, “Who are the children of the promise?” He explains that in the remainder of Chapter 9. Essentially, he says that only those who trust in Christ are children of the promise:
Rom 9:33 (NLT) God warned them of this in the Scriptures when He said, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.”
The stone and rock that makes people stumble is Jesus Christ. Thus anyone who trusts in Him, that is, trusts Christ, will never be disgraced. These are Christians and they are the children of the promise.
Romans Chapter 10 further explains that true Israel is made up of both saved Jews and saved Gentiles. Read it. Paul goes on to say that God is not through with Israel. Read that as well.
Here are a few relevant verses:
Rom 11:1-6 (NLT) I ask, then, has God rejected His own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. (2) No, God has not rejected His own people, whom He chose from the very beginning. Do you realize what the Scriptures say about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, (3) “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (4) And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!” (5) It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—His undeserved kindness in choosing them. (6) And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.
God has not rejected his people Israel. He has a remnant of Israelites that have remained true to Him because they believe in Christ as Savior. It is by God’s grace that they are saved and not their works, that is, their obedience to every jot and tittle of the Law of Moses.
Rom 11:7 (NLT) So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened.
The few that have found the favor of God through Christ, along with the saved Gentiles, are true Israel. This means that true Israel is that body of believers made up of saved Jews and saved Gentiles. Paul says in Galatians that this group of saved Jews and saved Gentiles (which is the Church) is the group of people who will receive all the promises that God made to Abraham for Israel:
Gal 3:24-28 (NLT) Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. (25) And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. (26) For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. (28) There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The next verse is the clincher:
Gal 3:29 (NLT) And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
To sum up. True Israel is the group of people made up of both saved Jews and saved Gentiles, in other words, the church. This does not mean that the church has replaced Israel. It means that the church has become a part of Israel.
Why some still insist that the Church and Israel are forever separate is a question I cannot answer except for one thing: Those people are uninformed of what the scriptures above actually say. Unfortunately Dispensationalists are either blinded by their faith in Dispensationalism, or are unaware of the truth of Scripture, or both.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.