Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Jesus faithful Israel?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

In the New Testament, there are some parallels between ancient Israel and Jesus Christ that give warrant to the view that Jesus is faithful Israel whose obedience brings blessings to others. For example, in the Gospel of Matthew, like Israel, Jesus goes to Egypt and then is called out of Egypt. Listen to Matthew 2:13-15.

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” (Matt. 2:13-15)

After Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:13-17), He “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). Matthew tells us that “after He had fasted forty days and forty nights” (Matt. 4:2), He was tempted. But unlike Adam in the garden and Israel in her wilderness wanderings between Egypt and Canaan, Jesus did not succumb to temptation and sin. Recall that Israel’s wilderness wanderings occurred over a forty year period due to sin (cf. Num. 14, especially verses 31-35) and after she passed through the Red Sea waters (Exod. 14-15). Jesus, however, passed through the waters of baptism, was tempted after forty days of fasting, and did not sin.

Another example of the New Testament relating ancient Israel and Jesus Christ comes from the apostle Paul. It is agreed upon by most Bible scholars that the redemption of the Old Testament was Israel’s exodus from Egyptian bondage, as stated above. God rescued Israel from Egyptian bondage. The Israelites were under a dark and oppressive Egyptian ruler and God Himself delivered them from bondage and took them to the Promised Land through the human leadership of Moses and then Joshua. In Colossians 1:12-15 there are some interesting echoes of the exodus in the words of the apostle Paul. Here’s what he says there:

12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Col. 1:12-15)

The redemption of sinners by Jesus has some parallels with the redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Just as the Israelites were in a dark and oppressive place, so sinners redeemed by Jesus were trapped in the domain of darkness. Just as God liberated Israel from bondage, so Christ liberates sinners from bondage. Just as God took the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them an inheritance–the Promised Land–, so God takes sinners out of the bondage of sin and qualifies them for a future inheritance. Just as God ruled over Israel, so God places believing sinners in the kingdom of His beloved Son to be ruled by Him.

There are other parallels from other New Testament themes. Just as Israel was given a memorial meal (i.e., the Passover) to remember her deliverance from bondage, so the church has been given a memorial meal (i.e., the Lord’s Supper[1]) to remember her deliverance from bondage. And finally, just as Israel was given a memorial day to remember her deliverance (i.e., the Sabbath), so the church has been given a memorial day (i.e., the Lord’s Day) to remember her deliverance. What the Old Testament typified in Israel (i.e., God’s son and firstborn), finds its fulfillment in Jesus, God’s faithful Son and firstborn, and His body, the church.

Due to Christ’s faithfulness, He obtains an eternal inheritance for all those He came to save, unlike Adam and Israel who were unfaithful. The New Testament interprets Christ’s coming as the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes (e.g., Luke 1:26-38, 46-55, 67-79; 2:25-38; Acts 26:19-23). The New Testament also understands the church as the fulfillment of the eschatological Israel of Old Testament prophecy (e.g., Acts 2:14-21; 15:13-21; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Gal. 6:16; Eph. 2:11-22; Heb. 8:7-13). The Lord’s servant, Jesus Christ, unlike Old Covenant Israel, was faithful and became a “light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:23), just as “the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place” (Acts 26:22).

Old Testament Israel was a means to an end. The end is not Palestine. The end is not an earthly, Jerusalem temple at which animal sacrifices are offered. Ancient Israel was chosen by God to be a means through which the last Adam would come. She was also a means through which His Person, His work, His people, and His kingdom were typified. Israel has connections with the first man, Adam, and the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

Richard Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA

[1] See my forthcoming The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory, to be published by Christian Focus Publications, for my understanding of the Supper as a means of grace and not only a memorial meal.

  1. This is tremendous! The more I study the Old Testament, the more I see Jesus leaping from the pages! Richard, you put all of this so concisely in such a small space. Thank you. I am going to share this with many of my colleagues via email.

  2. Tom, I am glad it was helpful.

  3. Because of her personal sins, Israel was temporarily removed from the land, held in the captivity of Babylon, and then restored back to the land (a death, burial, and resurrection), and because of imputed sin, Jesus was removed from the land of the living, held in the captivity of the grave, and restored back to the land of the living in His resurrection.

  4. What Pastor Max Doner said.

  5. Jesus’ declaration “I am the true vine” in John 15:1 included two things that were very controversial to His audience of Jews, but perhaps are lost on us in our modern western setting:
    1. He said “I AM” which is a claim to be God. It should be in capitals in our English Bible versions but isn’t.
    2. He said “the TRUE vine” which implies there is also a false or less than perfect vine. That vine, as known by the audience, was the nation of Israel itself. This is a direct claim by Jesus to the Jews that He is the true Israel. Refer Isaiah 5, among other places, where Israel is established as “the vine”.

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