Lately I am bombarded with the Israel question. I personally believe that those Jews who have been saved are ONE with us (non-Jewish) who are saved (Romans is clear about this I feel). The hope of Christians is heaven bound. The hope of Jews seems to be earth bound. Is God's presence going to be in a new Jewish temple?
Where is the fine line between “natural and spiritual Israel?”
We need to develop some background before we answer the three last questions.
Jew By Physical Birth
The first important point is that the only way one can be a Jew is by birth. Paul says in Romans 11:13-14,
But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. (NASB) Romans 11:13-14
Since Paul was a Jew by birth (Philippians 3:4-5, his fellow countrymen were Jews. Paul clearly assumes that a person was a Jew by physical birth, not by spiritual birth. Paul was hoping to see some of them saved.
Jew By Spiritual Birth
When a person becomes a Christian, he or she becomes a Jew in a spiritual sense according to Romans 9:6-8,
For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (NASB) Romans 9:6-8
The Holy Spirit tells us the true descendants are not by physical birth, but are those by the promise, that is, by a spiritual birth. This “promise” assures us (Hebrews 9:15) that we can become righteous by faith.
. . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (NASB) Hebrews 9:15
As He says also in Hosea, “I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’ AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.'” (NASB) Romans 9:25
So all who believe are considered to be spiritual Jews.
Some believe there is no difference between a spiritual and a natural Jew. They refer to Galatians 3:6-9. This is unfortunate because they not only misunderstand the symbolism, but they ignore the statement in Romans 9:8 that they are “regarded as descendants,” but not actual descendants.
That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (NASB) Romans 9:8
So natural Israel are those who are physically born a Jew. Spiritual Israel is everyone – Jews and Gentiles, who place their faith in Jesus.
Those of us who believe are all spiritual Jews. So we share in the spiritual promises together, including living eternally in heaven. Yet, there is a promise of an earthly kingdom and temple with an heir of King David reigning on the throne of David. This promise is for physical Israel. In Luke 1, the Holy Spirit tells Mary that the child born to her will be,
. . . great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end. (NASB) Luke 1:32-33
And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority . . . And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (NASB) Acts 1:6-9
In Luke 1:32-33, Mary would have assumed he was referring to a physical kingdom. The kingdom starts off as a physical kingdom and then becomes a spiritual kingdom. In Acts 1:6-9, Jesus’ disciples asked when the kingdom was coming. Jesus does not tell them it is only spiritual and already here. He tells them it is yet future and they will need to wait and then he ascends into His spiritual kingdom. God has a kingdom that has existed since eternity past. God reigns! Where? The answer is heaven Luke 23:42)!
The hope of both Jews and Gentiles is an earthly and a heavenly kingdom. God’s presence will exist in the earthly and heavenly kingdom. For more information on the kingdom you may want to see a study on the Prophecy of the Future.